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The Wilsonville City Council considers policies that would attract small businesses

After previous meetings in which the Wilsonville City Council could not decide how it will update its policies for system development charges (one-time charges to developers for the use of public infrastructure) the City agreed to bifurcate the deliberation at a meeting Monday, June 17.

For one, the City passed the first reading of a resolution to approve most of the code change language at the meeting. Additionally, the City decided to address whether to allow installment payments and payment deferrals during a broader discussion about how it would like to incentivize small business development, which will take place at a later date.

During previous meetings, the proposed policies City staff prepared would have disallowed deferrals and created requirements that were more stringent than what Mayor Tim Knapp and Councilor Ben West preferred.

"The city lacks a boutique, small business, artsy vibe. We have a lot of chains and a lot of other types of businesses, but we don't have the quaint, great little cafe breakfast spot and the little gallery. We don't have a lot of that," Councilor Ben West said at the June 17 meeting. "I'm just thinking as we want to attract those types of businesses it might give us a competitive edge not only with how much our SDCs are but what types of programs we have available to be able to say, 'Pick us, not Tualatin. Pick us, not another competitive city around the area."

Wilsonville City Attorney Barbara Jacobson said splitting up the decisions would allow staff more time to come up with ideas for attracting small businesses beyond SDC policies.

"That's one aspect that can help a business (SDC deferrals) but there may be other things that are much better for small business," Jacobson said.

Though the council will talk more extensively about options for attracting small businesses at a later date, Councilor Susie Stevens wanted to give her two cents because the meeting was her last as a councilor. She liked the idea of helping small businesses but said the council should ensure that the policies aren't susceptible to abuse, which could lead to the City having less SDC funding than needed to complete projects.

"I urge the council to be careful about that, to be successful helping small businesses, but not something that big developers who have the resources upfront don't take advantage and use the city as a bank," she said.

Council President Kristin Akervall, for her part, hopes that the incentive program could be woven into Economic Development Manager Jordan Vance's current project surveying and interviewing business executives to ask about the advantages and disadvantages of running a business in Wilsonville.

"I'm sure there would be much information we could glean from those interviews that could be helpful," she said.

The SDC policies the City passed at the meeting include allowing the transferability of SDC credits to other developers for up to 75 percent of the value and mandating that SDCs be calculated when a building application is deemed complete and collected at the issuance of a building permit, among other changes.

The City will consider a second reading of the resolution as well as the deferral and installment payments issue at an upcoming meeting.

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