Mixed use plan for riverfront continues to next step
The city of Newberg is moving onto the next step in adopting its riverfront master plan, which will see a public hearing on July 15.
Community Development Director Doug Rux said the city has had its final technical advisory and citizen advisory committee meetings on the plan, both who passed motions to recommend the City Council accept the plan.
This comes several months after the citizens advisory committee recommended the city staff move forward to update the zoning of the WestRock mill site to allow additional uses, despite WestRock's preference to leave the site alone.
Rux referred questions to Mayor Rick Rogers, but said a subcommittee on the WestRock property has been formed.
The city first began updating its 17-year-old master plan in 2017, although it had to put that off to begin construction of the Newberg-Dundee bypass. The original 2002 plan also suffered several setbacks, such as the economic recession and the closure of the WestRock mill in 2016. However, the city began to look back at the riverfront master plan, in part due to a $200,000 grant from the state's Transportation and Growth Management Program.
The goal of the plan is to look at what mix of uses, both residential and commercial, would be allowed in the riverfront area; planning a walking, biking and automotive network to increase connectivity within the area and the city; and protect open space.
Rux said the next step will be a joint work session on the plan between the planning commission and council, although both bodies will also hold separate public hearings. He added that the project needs to be completed by September, a timeline the city has met so far.
City officials – including Rux, Rogers and City Manager Joe Hannan – met with WestRock officials over the winter to tour the site of the defunct mill and discuss the riverfront master plan. Those talks centered around the city's water treatment plant, which is on the mill site, as well as discussing the master plan in general to get WestRock's opinion.
So far, no movement has been made on the mill.
As for the riverfront master plan itself, the city began work anew on the project in spring 2018. Officials have held several meetings of citizen-involved committees and have conducted several surveys online and at meetings.
The committee members heard a synopsis of prior public input and then began looking at three alternatives to the 2002 plan. The first alternative would be similar to the 2002 plan, and would leave a bit of commercial space at the end of River Street, but would leave most of the mill site as it is for industrial use.
The remaining alternatives look to introduce different types of comprehensive plans and zoning that would allow for other commercial use areas and different types of smaller industrial – such as tech uses – or mixed uses that aren't currently allowed.
All the alternatives feature interconnected trail networks as well.
According to the latest plan narrative, the 460-acre riverfront area contains several manmade features that limit development and connectivity to other areas. However, it is viewed as a space that can provide for "large events, as well as opportunities for families and individuals to gather, recreate and relax. Safe and direct connections for walkers, bikers and drivers will draw people to the riverfront from downtown and other areas of the city. A mix of residences, public spaces, services, commerce and industrial uses will tie together through great design, creating a unique, mixed use setting on the Willamette River."
The narrative acknowledges it faces uncertainty due to the murky future of the mill, as the mill's owners were actively trying to sell the property early on, then changed the plan to reopen the mill. The mill now sits empty.