From Tuesday, November 5th City Council meeting:
Council approved three amendments to City ordinances. The first amendment was to repeal the sunset clause which bans tobacco use in City parks. The original ban was implemented two years ago. It included a sunset clause which means the ban would end after two years unless it was made permanent by Council action. They heard testimony which suggested that the users of the parks supported a permanent ban and passed the ordinance unanimously.
The second ordinance incorporated updated regulations on building code regulations. These updates occur regularly and are done by the State of Oregon.
The last ordinance was an amendment to marijuana land use regulations. These changes were recommended to the City Council by the Planning Commission, who discussed the matter over several months. Much of the changes were housekeeping. The changes of significance included:
- Operate indoors in a non-transparent, solid-walled structure
- Confine odors to premises
- Shield plants from view
- Have primary entrances facing streets or a primary parking lot
- Drive-throughs are prohibited.
- Homegrown Marijuana must
- Be blocked from the view of a right-of-way/street/road
- Be cultivated indoors if more than four plants
- Confine all odors to premises.
During citizen's comments there were 3 topics that were raised by members of the community: street revenue, development of the old fire station, and apartments proposed to be developed.
A recommendation suggested that rather than raising fees and/or taxes the City should reduce our budget by 1% across the board. “The City budget is $86M. A 1% reduction would generate $860,000 without raising taxes/fees. He noted, "Everybody can live with that.”
First and foremost, this is not a problem unique to the City of Pendleton. EVERY City has either had to deal with the fact that over time, the gas tax that was put into place to maintain our streets became insufficient decades ago. Cities had to increase revenue or cut services to maintain their roads or watch their roads crumble.
Before this City Council started talking to the citizens about needing more money for road maintenance, they spent an extensive effort examining the current budget to make sure that they moved as much as they felt we could, into road maintenance. Their action has increased spending on road maintenance from roughly $300k/year to $1.2M/year of which $460K of this is from the monthly street maintenance fee.
The Council also hired an outside consultant to examine the City budget. They felt this was necessary to make sure they left “no rock turned over”.
With regard to the recommendation to cut 1% across the board, of the $86M in the City budget, most of this money is in funds that are restricted by Oregon State law. For example, $31M of our $86M budget is entirely water and sewer utility funds. The City currently charges these utilities 7% of the gross annual sales for use of the public right of way. This is the maximum allowed by law. Increasing this fee from 7% to 8%, as was suggested, cannot happen. The rest of the funds are either trust funds or reserve funds, which cannot be touched.
Our options remain further reduction in the general fund or eliminating services in the street fund.
A large apartment owner complained about the incentives offered to developers on Tutuilla and Westgate, suggesting that the addition of 300 new apartments will crush the local rental market. His theory could be right. However, before a developer gets a construction loan, they are going to be required to submit a Market Analysis which will be used by the banks to approve or deny a construction loan. I trust them to determine whether or not this community can absorb the growth in available apartments. We have a housing supply problem, not a demand problem. The City did the right thing by enticing developers to build in Pendleton.