In mid-September of 2019, the Newberg City Council approved one of the city's most ambitious projects yet: a riverfront master plan that seeks to develop parks, residential areas and industrial areas along the Willamette River on the south end of town.
Since then, work has begun on various properties along the river and adjustments to the plan have gone through the necessary channels.
"We've engaged local entities to work on the implementation phase of the riverfront master plan," said Community Development Director Doug Rux. "That includes preparing changes to the comprehensive plan map, language and addressing the development and zoning changes for those properties within the city limits. We've worked on that and held a joint meeting between the City Council and planning commission back on July 9."
The city looked over some slight adjustments to the proposal, including land use for the area along Rogers Landing and the city's long-decommissioned landfill that may be used for a public park. The recent sale of the former WestRock mill site could throw another set of changes into the proposal as well, once the buyer of the site is announced.
The proposed changes discussed July 9 were taken into account by city planners, Rux said, and are still headed to a number of committees.
"We took that feedback, made some adjustments and modification to the proposal, and we sent the materials off to the Department of Land Conservation and Development for a post acknowledgement plan assessment process," he said. "We've sent it out to various government agencies for their approval and we're heading to the planning commission for a public hearing on Oct. 8 along with another hearing in front of the City Council on Nov. 2."
The city is moving forward with the master plan and has already engaged in some development on lands along the river, Rux said, including the development of multiple housing subdivisions and apartments. He has also been in contact with property owners in the riverfront district to discuss possible annexation.
"We are moving forward with the implementation phase based on the community's vision for the riverfront area," Rux said, noting that one of the potential financing tools is an urban renewal program. "The council has accepted the results of the study and in October we will be working with the urban renewal agency to start preparing a renewal plan and report, which will take a number of months. We anticipate that work will be done in May of 2021.
"We have been in conversations with WestRock and the party that's been interested in the mill site, and we shared the riverfront master plan with the interested party. The riverfront area is also within a federal opportunity zone, which includes some tax advantages based on a bill President Trump signed a couple years ago."
City officials went through the process of listening to the community and hearing their desires for the riverfront district, which marks a significant chapter in the city's growth and history. With a pair of subdivisions already underway, along with parks and trails, the project will span decades and heavily develop the area along the city's southern flank.
Citizens shared their desire for open spaces and trails, Rux said, and that's incorporated into the plan primarily by targeting the former landfill site as an open, park-type space. Rogers Landing fits into that as well and there are trail connections to the area parks such as Ewing Young and others.
Rux said job creation will also be a big focus at the mill site and the new owner of the land is expected to work with the city and the county to that end.
"Within that master plan, we have some industrial development on the mill side, some multi-family development, some commercial development, some medium density development," Rux said, adding that there is a three-phase subdivision being built in the area, another subdivision underway along with an apartment development. "It's great to see all that work going on while we're still getting all the implementation provisions in place."
The city posts updates on the plan at www.newbergoregon.gov/planning/page/riverfront-master-plan-0. The website features a mock-up of the project along with details from previous council meetings, development updates and other significant information, including an interactive map.
Rux encouraged patience as the project moves forward, emphasizing that it is going to take decades for everything to come to fruition.
"The riverfront plan is a 20-year vision," Rux said. "It doesn't all happen at once. It will happen over time and we're already seeing much of it happen as we speak."
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