Urban renewal topic of upcoming city open house
Next week the city of Newberg will host a digital open house on urban renewal, inviting the community to come, listen and weigh in on an important subject.
The discussion will cover how the city plans to implement urban renewal, specifically projects that have made progress since last year.
The city implemented an urban renewal feasibility study at a July 2020 City Council meeting. Attendees at the upcoming open house at 6 p.m. April 7 can ask questions and make comments on the various aspects of the study and potential projects.
"The Newberg Urban Renewal Feasibility Study identified both parts of downtown Newberg and the Newberg riverfront area with two main connector roads, Blaine Street and River Street, as the urban renewal area," a release from the city said. "After adopting the feasibility study in July of 2020, the Newberg City Council authorized the creation of an urban renewal agency. The first urban renewal agency meeting is scheduled to be held on April 19 … and the final Newberg urban renewal plan is scheduled to be completed in August."
In the open house, those who participate can learn more about many of the priority projects identified by the Urban Renewal Citizens Advisory Committee, a group that has been advising the city on the matter. The primary focus of the projects, according to the city's release, is infrastructure and improving transportation.
The purpose of the projects is to "spur development within the urban renewal area, which will lead to new businesses locating in Newberg, new jobs for residents and create safer transportation systems, making Newberg more walkable for all community members," according to the release.
As envisioned, the urban renewal plan will include a large swath of southern Newberg from Ninth Street on the north to the Willamette River on the south, Wynooski Street on the east and nearly to Dayton Avenue on the west.
It includes nearly the entire footprint of the former WestRock paper mill as well as a large block on the north that stretches from West Hancock Street on the west to River Street on the east, from Third Street on the south to the portion of Sherman Street on the north that includes the Chehalem Cultural Center.
"Newberg is on the verge of having their downtown and riverfront redeveloped in ways that will shape the community for decades to come," said John Bridges, Urban Renewal Citizen Advisory Committee chairman. "Newberg City Council's adoption of an urban renewal plan will be an important tool to improve our community, invest in important infrastructure and attract future industry to provide family-wage jobs."
Another member of the committee and chairwoman of the Newberg Downtown Coalition (NCD) on infrastructure, Molly Olson, added her perspective in the city's promotion of the event.
"I believe the Urban Renewal Citizens Advisory Committee working with the city has crafted a plan that brings the potential for more jobs, more housing and implementation of the downtown improvement plan," she said. "The participation of members from the school district, Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, the Chehalem Park and Recreation District, the (Chehalem Valley Chamber of Commerce), NDC and other community members has crafted a well-rounded and supported plan to grow Newberg in a way consistent with the visioning plans."
A link to the April 7 Zoom call will be available at www.NewbergOregon.gov/UROpenHouse. Additional information on urban renewal locally can be found at www.NewbergOregon.gov/Urban-Renewal.
What is an urban renewal area?
An urban renewal area is an economic development tool that helps cities revitalize parts of town using something called tax increment financing, Doug Rux, the city's community development director, said in July after the council accepted the feasibility study.
Rux stressed that tax increment financing does not mean property owners will incur an additional tax, but rather that a portion of future proceeds from property taxes on land within the urban renewal area are redirected to the city for revitalization efforts.
"It is a redistribution of taxes that are already being paid to the taxing districts," he added. "The taxes that are redistributed go to the urban renewal agency to perform the improvements listed in the urban renewal plan."
The amount of property tax collections going to each agency in the urban renewal district — such as the city, local school districts and Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, are frozen at their existing level. Any taxes collected above that base are used to pay for urban renewal.
Projects that could be undertaken range from streetscape and storefront improvements to rehabilitation of existing buildings and working with developers on improving properties. URA money also could be put toward construction or improvement of streets, sidewalks, utilities and parks.
New development or substantial rehabilitation of property within the identified area could result in increased property tax proceeds and also would be directed toward revitalization efforts, Rux said.
"This does not mean individual tax bills increase," Rux said. "It only means a portion of their tax bill is allocated to the urban renewal agency for use in the Urban Renewal Area."
URA? Sounds familiar
This is not the city's first attempt at creating an urban renewal area or district. Two prior attempts, adopted by previous city councils in the 1980s and 1990s, were turned down by voters in referendums headed up by the late Joe Brugato.
Among his successful arguments were that the city designated areas as blighted that were not, but were included in the URA because they would soon be developed and, therefore, would generate increased tax proceeds for the city.
That designation of blighted is not an easy one to explain. Oregon law states that blighted areas are designated as such "by reason of deterioration, faulty planning, inadequate or improper facilities, deleterious land use or the existence of unsafe structures, or any combination of these factors, are detrimental to the safety, health or welfare of the community."
Blight can take the form of areas that have fallen into disrepair, are overcrowded, have inadequate transportation systems, be prone to flooding, have experienced decreased property values, are economically dislocated and house defective or poor-quality construction, among other descriptions.
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