Opinion: North End developers shouldn't get Oregon City tax funds
There are alternative futures for Oregon City's downtown and North End area; one future would create a Washington Square-style development on the Rossman's Landfill next to the Home Depot. This would overwhelm the local streets such as Abernethy Road. The consultant's traffic impact statement falls short of identifying the true impacts.
Developers want $40 million in public funds for a 500-unit Oregon City project along with a retail and entertainment complex, including recreational facilities, hotels, retail stores, financial services and restaurants. What the developers are really saying is that they will kill Oregon City's downtown.
We argue against this future and do not support it. I will hope you will join us in not allowing any public funds to go to the project.
There are serious civil and geotechnical constraints; plus, the Cayuse graves issue. Oregon City has to choose what type of future the citizens want.
Here is an alternative future and one which we hope you will support at City Commission and Planning Commission meetings. We must reinvigorate Oregon's quality-of-life programs and empower former Gov. Tom McCall's vison wanting to protect Oregon's precious resources. He signed legislation for public ownership of Oregon's beaches, codified statewide land-use planning, created the Land Conservation and Development Commission, and allowed for a voter-approved Urban Growth Boundary, which separated urban areas from surrounding natural and agricultural lands and put limits on how far out the city can expand in an average 20-year time period.
We would advocate for a tourism future, creating new parks and connections between key components to create a healthy downtown for all citizens.
Fortunately, we have dedicated public servants on the Oregon City Commission: Frank O'Donnell, Rocky Smith and Adam Marl voted against the budget that sets aside funds for future potential projects. Marl said his biggest consideration in deciding whether to approve the development will be whether the competition of another big retail center will hurt Oregon City's existing small businesses already struggling to recover.
Instead let's use public funds to refurbish the Clackamette Cove for swimming and bring in sand for beaches all around it; do monthly water-quality testing on Clackamette Cove so the public can be assured it is safe for recreation.
Other good initiatives would include:
• Develop a Water Resources Education Center around the existing River Museum by partnering with Clackamas Water Environment Services. Focus on natural areas and recreational uses, say kayak rentals versus restaurants and bars. Emphasize the water, the river, natural areas for citizens. Educate the public about the importance of water, especially fresh water, the Falls, the Clackamas River and the Willamette River.
• Prohibit future development from being flooded from the next big flood. Presently insurance companies will not give flood insurance to the Edgewater Apartments; let alone housing planned in Phase II, which may be lower in elevation.
• Partner with the Grand Ronde Tribe who now own the Falls and the over 1 mile of the river frontage to create a Clackamas Native American History Center, nearby perhaps on the grounds of the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.
• Design Clackamette Cove as a "Olmsted Peace Park" for now and the future to emphasize tourism and our water and historical resources. With the update of the Comprehensive Plan, we have an opportunity to create a new future for ourselves and our children.
• In terms of Rossman Landfill, let's not pile-drive steel down through a mountain of trash and then float buildings on it; potentially making Gladstone's drinking water supply even more of a problem. Appropriate uses for the landfill could be an inspirational garden that would be a signature project in the urban landscape in Oregon City and transform the hearts of those who visit.
Think about it — an old landfill could become one of the most prized parks in the region, similar to "The Garden of Forgiveness," originally conceived by Alexandra Asseily in 1997 as a place of calm reflection, sheltered from the bustle of Beirut and expressing themes of understanding, forgiveness and unity. Another model could be "The Nobel Peace Laureate Project" at Alton Baker Park in Eugene. Claes Nobel of the Alfred Nobel family help design the park with the goals of inspiring future peacemakers by honoring the 24 American Nobel Peace Prize Laureates and increasing the knowledge Americans have of their own internationally recognized peacemakers.
Let us make the north end about a "tourism vision" and not another shopping mall and dedicate it to the 200th birthday (April 26, 2022) of Frederick Law Olmsted, father of American landscape architecture, author, journalist, public official, city planner and creator of one of the U.S.'s most famous parks: Central Park in New York City. Olmsted and his successor firms designed thousands of landscape projects across the country, transforming American life and culture. His vision of public parks for all people — and their ability to strengthen communities and promote public well-being — are now more important than ever.
Please check out the many commemorative events around the country and at the Oregon Historical Society on April 5. To learn more of why Olmsted's many parks stood for peace and prosperity go to olmsted200.org.
Nancy Spanovich is a descendant of famed landscape architect Frederik Law Olmsted, and Gary Spanovich is a former transportation, engineering and economic planning director for Clackamas County.
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