West Linn City Council discusses options for rights-of-way
Over the past few months, the City of West Linn has scaled back its maintenance of unimproved rights-of-way throughout the city and adjoining property owners have expressed concern. At a City Council work session Monday, Nov. 18, Community Development Director John Williams said that most rights-of-way are now being maintained by the adjacent property owners. The exception is a large parcel on Kelly Street.
Previously the City was maintaining rights-of-way adjacent to more than 800 private properties, or over 22 miles of private frontage. The City decided to scale back because this maintenance was not cheap and because according to City Code, maintenance of the right of way was the adjacent property owner's responsibility anyway.
The Kelly Street land, a 300-foot stretch of grass of road easement costs the City $217 to mow each time.
Williams told the council Monday night that the City has about 40 acres of unimproved right-of-way, some of which could potentially be of use to the City at some point, but many of which are of no real interest to the City.
Even though much of the City's rights-of-way are now being maintained by property owners, Williams said the City still often hears requests from citizens about what it should do with the rights-of-way. He said it would be ideal for the City to vacate many of the rights-of-way and give them to the adjacent property owners.
However, Williams explained that often times, property owners aren't interested in taking the right-of-way. In many cases, as it stands now they see it as a bit of extra yard that they don't have to pay property taxes on.
Williams told the council that vacating the rights-of-way could improve clarity over maintenance responsibility and reduce the number of service requests from citizens, but added that the vacating process would would require significant resources in terms of time and effort by City staff in addition to currently unbudgeted surveying, easement documenting, and noticing expense.
Council President Teri Cummings noted she was hesitant to let the maintenance of certain special riparian areas fall into the hands of property owners.
"I think it's better to not leave that in private ownership because it's harder for people to understand how to take care of property like that in an environmentally responsible way," Cummings said. "When they think they own it, you're gonna have people are gonna wanna clear it all off and put up play equipment and things like that."
The City will continue to look into the process for vacating rights of way, as well as the cost for doing so.
For the third time in a month, members of the West Linn City Council shared some thoughts on state affordable housing rules mandated in Oregon House Bill 2001. Though affordable housing wasn't on the agenda for Monday's work session, Cummings brought it up in the council reports at the end of the meeting.
Cummings expressed concerns with a rule-making committee created by the state of Oregon.
"We missed out on finding out how to apply for that, unfortunately," Cummings said.
"Out of the 29 members and the 29 alternates that are going be on this, only two of them are going be mayor or councilors, one for the medium and one for the large. I'm seeing a lot of development-related members here and I'm not sure to what extent they're going to share our same type of concerns."
The council president said she wanted the City of West Linn to be as involved as possible in the rule-making process and suggested two councilors join with two planning commissioners to keep an eye on the rule-making committee and report back to the council and planning commission.
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