Developer restrictions complicate bridge landing purchase
A decision about whether to purchase a 67,000-square-[foot building site in Town Center has precipitated a dose of uncertainty regarding the City's plan to build a bicycle and pedestrian bridge across I-5.
Though the City's resolution to spend $1.5 million to acquire a property that could hold the bridge's eastside landing spot passed 4-1 at the Nov. 19 meeting, the resolution stipulated that the City could step away from the purchase if it can't come to an agreement with developers to tweak covenants so that it could more easily resell the property if the bridge project falters.
"We know enough that sometimes things change and timelines change, so the flexibility to work in that kind of environment is very important," Councilor Kristin Akervall said at the meeting.
The City is currently developing a Town Center Plan to foster a more attractive mixed use area and officials have stated that the bridge, which would better link Wilsonville's SMART transit center west of I-5 and Town Center, is an important component of the project.
Wilsonville councilors differed on whether the covenant restrictions, which City Attorney Barbara Jacobson said include building material requirements and a developer review committee that could shoot down land sales, were a sticking point and if the project was worth doing at all.
While Mayor Tim Knapp and Akervall stressed the importance of removing covenant restrictions, Councilor Charlotte Lehan said the City should purchase the property even if developers want to maintain certain design restrictions and authority over property sales. She also empathized with developers who might have trepidation about the City potentially lifting restrictions and then selling the property if the bridge project falls through.
"This has not been a problem for us in the past. We've always been able to sell it (property) for at least as much as we purchased it for," she said. "I can see where they (developers) don't want us to sell to a third party and all the restrictions are gone and they have no say."
Along with the purchase, Council President Scott Starr repudiated the bridge project in general.
He raised concern that the property's value hadn't appreciated in recent years and about the covenant restrictions. Plus, he said the bridge project has received nearly universal disapproval from Wilsonville residents he has talked to.
So Starr voted against the resolution to acquire the property.
"I'm looking at this and I can't support it based on the feedback I've gotten," he said. "From a business perspective I don't think it's a very good idea."
Councilor Susie Stevens, however, felt the bridge would greatly improve the interconnectivity of the community.
"I think this bridge is needed to get the community through the freeway, particularly for our youth," she said.
Jacobson and City staff have negotiated with developers about the restrictions and Jacobson said they have made some progress but that there are still details to iron out.
"The idea behind the restrictive covenants is it was a commercial area and the owners of the property wanted a certain look and feel to the development that would go there," Jacobson said.
Jacobson said one of the developers, Capital Realty, would acquiesce to lifting restrictions to allow the bridge but might not lift all restrictions.
The City has negotiated but hasn't come to an agreement with the other developer, Retail Opportunity Investment Corp., either.
"I proposed lifting all of the restrictions (to one developer) and the response I got was, 'No, we don't want to do that because if the City ends up selling it to a third party we want to have some control over what that other use would be,'" Jacobson said.
Jacobson said the property located on the east side of Town Center West might not be the only option for bridge landing placement, but it is the only parcel that is currently up for sale.
Knapp said the City likely needs to decide whether to purchase the property now because if it waits until the Town Center Plan is completed, the property's cost would likely rise. The resolution gives the City 90 days to decide to finalize the purchase or terminate the transaction.
"The sequence of events is a challenge," Knapp said.
The City of Wilsonville also passed a resolution to fund two 35-foot electric buses at the meeting.
Along with $226,000 from the City, the buses are paid for via a $1.45 million grant South Metro Area Regional Transit was awarded in 2017.
"These grants that provide for the electric buses are very competitive in nature. There are hundreds of agencies across the country that are competing for the limited funds," SMART Director Dwight Brashear said. "When we were awarded the grant we were the only ones in the state of Oregon to be chosen."
The buses, produced by Los Angeles based manufacturer Protera, will run on the Route 4 crosstown shuttle and require two chargers and batteries. The buses are expected to be delivered to Wilsonville in mid-2019. The City also said the buses could save over $30,000 annually by curbing fuel emissions.
The City said the delivery of the buses will happen sooner than anticipated, so it also passed a resolution to adjust its budget to account for the expenditure.
Stevens was impressed by the Protera electric bus she observed when the company brought it down from Seattle.
"These are beautiful buses. They are top of the line," she said. "We're so fortunate of being able to be ahead of schedule."
Knapp viewed the electric buses as a way to encourage people to consider alternative transportation options as traffic in Wilsonville and the Portland metro area worsens.
"This likely is going to be something that takes a generation to become more accepted. My generation didn't grow up with public transit being in the front of our minds," he said. "It's one of the few ways to relieve congestion in our community. By providing high quality equipment that is clean and enjoyable to ride and a reliable service is one of the ways to bend that curve on traffic."
City to hire janitorial
Wilsonville City Council directed City staff to alter its janitorial services.
Under the "Products of Disabled Individuals" act, city governments in Oregon are required to purchase janitorial services from Qualified Rehabilitation Facilities, which are nonprofit organizations that provides employment to disabled individuals.
The City currently hires Tualatin Valley Workshop, a QRF, for janitorial services but City officials expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of services provided, citing poor quality of work, inappropriate behavior and staff turnover. They also documented instances where TVW staff neglected to vacuum and clean the toilets and residents expressing concerns about a lack of cleanliness.
"It really comes down to lack of supervision," Public Works Director Delora Kerber said. "I wonder if they really care. It's kind of like 'You have to hire us so we're gonna do what we do.'"
As an alternative, the City decided to hire janitors in-house once their current agreement expires in early 2019. The City projected that it would save over $40,000 in two years if it were to make the switch and indicated that it would not violate state law if it hired janitors as staff members.
"It's a challenge that we have of low quality work yet we are paying a premium for these services because the state sets the price," Kerber said.
The City plans to begin soliciting jobs soon and hopes to hire three janitors by next March.
"I'm entirely comfortable with bringing it in house," Lehan said.