Molalla City Council, residents discuss city's openness to business
Several residents, including the Molalla Chamber of Commerce President Connie Farrens, spoke at a public hearing Sept. 12 to ask the council members to change the adopted business codes believing they aren't welcoming to potential businesses.
City manager Dan Huff told Farrens in an email that he was disappointed with statements made by the Chamber of Commerce last evening during public comment at our City Council meeting. Mainly because the statements are untrue and cause the City to once again refute erroneous statements made by the Chamber of Commerce.
He questioned statements such as the new development code will not permit another grocery store of big box within the city limits of Molalla. More importantly, he called the statement that home occupations are not allowed with the new code incorrect.
Regarding the statement about grocery and big box stores, he said, "This statement was untrue when the Chamber raised it in October of 2017 and is untrue today. Section 17-2.2.030 of the Development Code specifically allows Grocery and Big Box as an outright permitted use." Grocery and big box stores do not require a conditional use permit.
Additionally, Huff called the statement termed the Good Old Boy System "…not only offensive but intended to incite distrust and question integrity and character. I challenge the person who made the statement, you or any of your members to prove this statement to be true.
Huff questioned what specifically does not work in that email?
"Where is the property that someone waited for years to acquire and now finds out that they cannot build? My staff and I met with you all five or six months ago and went through Code issues," Huff said. "I stated during that meeting that if we do not know what the issues are we cannot address the alleged problem."
"We're concerned about Molalla's restrictive codes that send potential business to Canby and other cities," said Tracy Cox, one of the Chamber's board members. "Canby has fewer code restrictions and our restrictions aren't friendly to expanding business here," she told the council. "No new business, no sales, no living wage jobs for our citizens."
And, Jim Taylor complained that these restrictions limit economic development.
"Our code isn't conducive to business in Molalla," he said. He suggested the councilors re-read conditional use permits to make Molalla more business ready.
However, Leota Childress noted that the council had been discussing the codes for 18 months to two years. "No one came until the last minute. That's not the way the city operates, maybe before, but not now," she said heatedly. She suggested if they want change they should come to the meetings and make their voices heard.
The next topic on the agenda included an "informal discussion" with Jon Makler, Region 1 planning manager with Oregon's Department of Transportation. This subject was a large part of the Chamber breakfast the following morning. Those at the breakfast thought the idea of using a roundabout to mitigate and make traffic safer at the Highway 213/Tolliver Road interchange was not the best solution.
However, the problem is that the interchange is not the city's decision. "Highway 213 is a State Highway and under the purview of the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT). ODOT will spend $750,000 to examine the feasibility of a round-a-bout. The City of Molalla has a traffic signal in its current Transport Plan, according to Dan Huff.
ODOT is looking at the highest volume of meeting traffic now and in 2038 whether the cost is paid by the developer or the city. ODOT staff has funds for a roundabout road safety audit and is committing $50,000 for this, Makler said at the meeting. Within the next few weeks, the staff will do the audit and make a report. Whether or not ODOT will fund the project is unknown until 2019 with the project scheduled for 2022-24, he said.
ODOT, according to Makler, is certain that the roundabout will be able to tolerate everything from large semi- and logging trucks to cars, bicycles and pedestrians
Childress noted that it appears that ODOT and the city are working together to solve the problem.