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Urban renewal is set to take effect, as the city also considers business partnerships at the library.

Urban renewal plan approved. Farmers market plans discussed. Library cafe vendors sought. Water rates set.

It sounds like a new verse of Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire," but it's just a partial list of what the Cornelius City Council did as it met Monday evening, July 15.

The council didn't disappoint in its sequel to last month's meeting, when it designated central Cornelius as the TenBlock District and mapped out decades' worth of revitalization efforts for the area. Over about two hours on Monday, it tore through a packed agenda, debating plans and taking votes likely to have visible effects in Cornelius for years to come.PMG FILE PHOTO - Adelante Mujeres started the Forest Grove Farmers Market in 2005. The nonprofit is interested in working with Cornelius city officials to found a farmers market there as well.

City officials are thrilled to have an outdoor gathering space on the north side of the new Cornelius Public Library. They're looking at starting up a farmers market — similar to the markets in neighboring Forest Grove and Hillsboro, although it would almost certainly be smaller, at least at first — as soon as next summer, which could occupy that plaza area and alleyway for one day per week in midsummer.

Adelante Mujeres, a nonprofit group that is among the organizers of the Forest Grove Farmers Market, is a potential partner for a farmers market in Cornelius as well. City councilors discussed signing a contract with Adelante Mujeres to begin planning for a market, but at the suggestion of City Manager Rob Drake, they decided to hold off on a vote while the details are worked out.

"I really feel that we're too new at it right now," said Councilor Steve Heinrich, who was involved with an unsuccessful effort to establish a farmers market in Cornelius more than 10 years ago. "We haven't got enough going downtown. I think we don't have enough people here yet."

Other council members expressed some concerns about spending close to $20,000 on a three-year contract with Adelante Mujeres, but they generally favored the idea of the city working with the nonprofit to plan and start up a farmers market.

"I think we're in a different place than we were years back," Councilor Luis Hernandez said. "I think we have an opportunity to keep that momentum going and make the most out of it."

The proposed contract that was discussed Monday allows the city to cancel it after this year's planning phase if the City Council decides it doesn't want to move forward with a market.

The council could still take up the contract, or a modified version of the contract. Mayor Jef Dalin suggested it's likely that it will.

"Right now, it's a concept with a price tag," Dalin said, adding, "I think there's interest in the council in moving this forward. … We just need a little more to get us there."PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Families check out the children's section of the Cornelius Public Library during its grand opening celebration on March 30.

The proposed farmers market isn't the only feature in the works at the Cornelius Public Library.

Since opening in February, the new library has been a flagship building at the heart of the newly named TenBlock District. The City Council has even moved its monthly meetings to the library's community room.

Library officials are hoping to add another feature to serve patrons and attract more visitors: a cafe or coffee bar in the library's foyer.

The library cafe would be privately run. Officials envision that a business would lease the space and operate it under contract with the city. But who would operate it is yet to be determined.

The City Council agreed to put out a call for potential vendors. Anyone who is interested in running a coffee bar in the Cornelius Public Library can apply and propose a three-year contract. A vendor could be chosen as soon as next month.PMG FILE PHOTO - Workers with Northwest Pipe Co. weld pipes inside the plant in North Portland for a water pipeline project that will supply Hillsboro with drinking water by the mid-2020s. Cornelius purchases its water from Hillsboro.

New water rates will also go into effect next month. The City Council approved a new rate structure, which decreases the base amount that each water customer pays — notably, the multifamily base rate is now the same as the rate for single-family homes — but increases the rate they pay for their amount of water usage.

For the smallest residential water meters, the base rate drops from more than $27 to about $23. But the amount paid per 1,000 gallons of water used in a month is going up from $3.73 to $4.29 for residential water customers. After the first 6,000 gallons of water usage, every additional 1,000 gallons will cost more, and every 1,000 gallons past 12,000 in a month will cost more than double what customers pay for each of their first six thousand.

"Those customers that truly conserve will see a discount on their bill, and those that use quite a bit of water will be paying more," said Ellie Jones, Cornelius' finance director.PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Ryan Wells, Cornelius' community development director, is optimistic about the potential for urban renewal to transform the city's central commercial corridor.

Likely the most consequential, long-lasting decision made at the City Council meeting is probably the most arcane.

The TenBlock District, which stretches roughly from 10th to 20th avenues in between the north and south railroad tracks, is considered the commercial heart of Cornelius. But because it bears signs of urban blight — run-down storefronts and houses, derelict buildings, and vacant lots — it is eligible to undergo a process known as urban renewal.

Although it may sound complicated, the way urban renewal works is deceptively simple. For the next 22 years, from properties within a defined area — which includes the TenBlock District, the rest of the Highway 8 corridor through Cornelius and the city's northwestern industrial district — the city and other districts that collect property taxes in Cornelius will not take in any more in tax revenue. As the total amount of property taxes in that area goes up over time, thanks to rising property values and inflation, the extra revenue they don't get — called the tax increment — will go directly toward urban renewal. The City Council will be legally required to spend that money on a list of urban renewal projects, including the TenBlock District improvements in the plan it approved last month.

The council unanimously approved the urban renewal plan. It will act as the urban renewal area's board of directors.

Although still a small city, with fewer than 13,000 residents, Cornelius is on pace to grow rapidly over the next three to five years, as new houses and apartments are built and people move in.

For most subdivision plans, Cornelius requires the developer to not only build homes, but also to put in a park. As each park is completed, it is transferred to city administration and becomes a public park.

The City Council was set to approve official names for five new parks in east Cornelius at its Monday meeting. However, with no shortage of other matters for the council to attend to, the names — like the Adelante Mujeres market contract — were held over to a later meeting.

By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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