Welcome home: Sandy officials work to meet needs of growing community
It was inevitable: word of how great Sandy is has gotten out and people are moving in. Houses for those people are already being planned and built.
Police, fire and city officials are well aware of the community's progression toward being a city of 12,000 people. This rise in population, of course, comes with consequences.
The last two weeks, The Post has written about how the rapid growth in population is affecting Sandy. Some of our Facebook commenters might say the mo' people, the mo' problems. But the city and service providers seem to have mixed emotions about the new development.
Sure, the strain on services and need for expansion of staffing for police, fire — everyone really — is undeniable, but some have argued the growth has its upside.
"I think when we have these conversations about growth a lot of people mostly think of the change to the community culture," City Manager Jordan Wheeler explained. "But, as the city grows, we face more challenges like managing traffic and congestion, (and) for the city as an organization, there's an effect on services and service levels."
Coincidentally, Wheeler added: "The property tax base becomes bigger (with new residents and homes) and that helps fund keeping up with providing services (and) leads to growth in community development. It also brings more amenities locally so people don't have to travel to Gresham for things. Without building our residential base you wouldn't necessarily see that growth in community investment."
"How do you keep a place people want to live without making people want to move there?" Mayor Stan Pulliam said. "If we said 'no more houses' then you have this demand that forces prices to go up and (we) have our own housing crisis."
As of December 2019, the city had received applications for 117 shovel-ready lots for single-family houses and duplexes, 67 tentatively platted lots for single-family houses, and about 275 conceptually planned lots for single-family houses. In terms of rentals, the city has approved 69 apartment units on Ruben Lane, which are shovel-ready, and there are about 330 units proposed, awaiting land use approval.
"By building new homes hopefully we can keep prices down by supplying the demand," Wheeler added. "Sandy's becoming a place people want to move to and rents and costs of houses are reflecting that."
The city approved an increase in wastewater system development charges (SDCs) last year, but developer Mac Even of Even Better Homes said, "I do understand the need for (higher SDCs). Sandy's got some serious issues with its sewer system. It makes costs go up, obviously. But it won't stop me from developing out here."
On top of that, the city has raised wastewater rates by 98% to take effect on this month's bill. It has also put in place a public safety fee, all in order to address growth and the cost of projects created to accommodate it.
"While we're a quickly growing community, we aren't fully grown yet, so we have a lot of needs that aren't funded," said Pulliam. "People don't realize that about 4,000 people of our population are children. When you need to go get more revenue, you're really only talking to about 2,000 dual-income homes, which is why we're forced to do a lot of what people do in their own homes when we have critical expenditures — debt service."
Aside from the wastewater treatment plant project, the city is still working on plans for almost every other aspect of its services. Over the past biennium, city staff have been working on a parks master plan, a transportation system plan, a transit master plan, an overall comprehensive plan and more. Also in the works is a new bypass viability study of Highway 26.
"We do happen to have a lot on our plate at one time," Wheeler said in a previous interview. "But with how the projects will be staggered, I think will be manageable. We are a city that's growing. We can't really sit on our hands while that's happening. It's incumbent on us too to keep the public involved."
Pulliam said because of the rate of growth in Sandy and current funding opportunities and needs, there is urgency to achieving completion on these projects that have been longtime council goals.
"We made the decision to focus in on what's attainable and trackable," Pulliam added. "We've really prioritized what we want to get done for the community. I like to think Lucy and Olivia (his daughters) will choose to raise their families here."
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