Election 2018: Bond, annexation proposals go to voters
By now, with the May 15 primary election fast approaching, West Linn voters have likely received their ballots and perhaps even mailed them in already.
Those who haven't may still be weighing their options on a ballot that contains two measures specific to West Linn — an annexation proposal and the hotly debated general obligation bond.
Here, we offer a guide to both measures:
The City hopes to generate as much as $20 million for projects related to transportation, parks and city facilities if voters approve the renewal of a 1998 general obligation (GO) bond that is set to expire within the next two years. The property tax rate from that 1998 bond, .42 cents per $1,000 in assessed value, is not expected to increase under a renewed 2018 bond.
After prolonged debate, the City Council opted not to attach exact dollar figures to projects that would be addressed with bond funds, arguing that it was too early to make projections about costs or the timeframe for when certain projects could be completed. In general, however, the council believes that the majority of the money should be spent on transportation infrastructure improvements — including safe routes to schools, Highway 43 construction and alterations to the 10th Street/Salamo Road area — and the remaining funds divided between park projects and work at city-owned buildings.
Hear both sides:
Pro-bond: "Without the bond, most of the identified improvement projects will remain unfunded. So, if the GO Bond fails we will need to decide — should we cut services to provide the money for these capital improvements or just leave things as they are?" — The West Linn City Council in a May 10 opinion piece.
Anti-bond: "The Council missed the opportunity to allow our citizens to vote on a transparent list of projects. No amount of wasted tax dollars is justifiable in the name of getting good projects. It's not selfish to demand better from our Council." — John Cahill, resident.
This vote didn't have to happen, and it won't technically decide anything.
Senate Bill 1573 — passed by the 2016 Oregon Legislature — mandated that all annexations be decided by the City Council, a departure from West Linn's long-held practice of putting annexations up for public vote. Other cities have challenged that law in court, and while that process plays out the City Council has opened up the avenue of public advisory votes on annexations when deemed necessary.
The council agreed in February to use that approach for a proposal to annex a 6.47 acre property at 23190 Bland Circle. The results of the vote will be taken into account when the council makes its final decision.
The Bland Circle property is considered an "island" in that it is surrounded by land that is within city limits and zoned R-7. The applicants, David and Drucilla Sloop, hoped for the property to be brought within city limits and zoned with the same R-7 designation, and the council has already approved the zoning change.
In February, the Sloops did not rule out future development at the site, but added that they weren't planning to do so in the immediate future. They were represented by Andrew Tull of 3J Consulting, who said that the proposal was consistent with all state laws and noted that the City had approved previous island annexations without an advisory vote. At that same meeting, resident Roberta Schwarz testified that 65 people signed a petition in favor of an advisory vote for the property due to concerns about future development at the site.
Hear both sides:
Pro-annexation: "West Linn has to continue to grow and develop and move with the times. I'm concerned if we get too worried about development costs, we're not going to move forward and develop as a city." — Brenda Perry, city council president
Anti-annexation: "Expanding a city's territory and infilling new residences can actually shift unmet civic costs onto the entire group of taxpayers who later find themselves needing to bond themselves when the local capacity of schools, roads, libraries, police and fire services are maxed out." — Rebecca Adams, resident.