City leaders want more info before ruling out site near The Round

It took some contentious debate and raised voices to get there, but the Beaverton City Council authorized a study to determine if the Westgate property adjacent to The Round at Beaverton Central is the most appropriate site for a proposed community health facility.

The 3-2 vote on Tuesday night authorizes Erdman Co., a Wisconsin-based real estate developer specializing in health care facilities, to spend 12 weeks studying the viability of the vacant former Westgate Theatre site for a nonprofit community health partnership complex. At an estimated cost of $150,000, Erdman will develop a timeline, budget and operational outline based on the site, which a preliminary evaluation determined the most viable of six sites around the city.

Envisioned as a partner-driven, multi-faceted health care clinic catering to the city's underserved and vulnerable populations, the Beaverton Community Health Collaborative would bring several agencies including Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center, Lifeworks NW and the Washington County Department of Health and Human Services under one roof in Central Beaverton.

Based on the study findings, the city and the health collaborative partners would determine whether to move ahead at the site, with the option of selling the property — owned by the city and Metro regional government — to Erdman or its business partner, Pacific Medical Buildings. If Erdman's plan is rejected, the city and the partners would each be expected to reimburse $37,500 to the company.

The council decision superseded an earlier discussion of two opposing resolutions — introduced by Councilors Cate Arnold and Ian King — one supporting Westgate as the preferred health center site, and another rejecting the site. With the resolution to reject the site tabled, the council decided to wait for Erdman's results in October before considering the site's merits and faults.

Arnold and King voted against the study plan, while Councilors Marc San Soucie, Betty Bode and Mark Fagin supported waiting for additional information before delving into site discussions.

"We have a lot of questions we can't get more answers to until there's more study done on the property," Fagin said. "I would rather wait until we have the answers, then we can decide if this is a project we can get behind."

King countered that the city's Community and Economic Development Department has considered the Westgate site a foregone conclusion, with citizens expressing confusion about when the council approved such an action.

"It's been openly declared, and quite definitively, that this is the purpose, that this is what the city is going to do," King said. "It's in here in black and white, on color plats (distributed at forums), without having a dialog with the council. We're at the point where we're de facto endorsing it without looking at the other possibilities.

"We still haven't answered the 'highest and best use' (of the property) question," he added.

Bode, who along with San Soucie said she never felt the Westgate proposal was rammed down the council's throat, rejected any suggestion that a community health complex would be a bad fit for The Round as its gradually redeveloped with City Hall moving to the South Office Building.

"This resolution opposing the health clinic (at Westgate), I find it vulgar and a slap in the face to the citizens," she said. "None of us know when we're going to be in need of health care, mental health care or (affordable) housing. We will be the best we can be when we step forward and think about others."

In other actions, the council approved a two-year trial period for a property tax exemption ordinance for affordable housing proposals from qualifying nonprofit agencies. Under the proposed "sunset clause," only qualifying agencies that apply for projects in the next two years would continue to receive tax credits. Affordable housing is defined as accessible to those earning less than 60 percent of median income and costing less than 30 percent of residents' household income.

The proposed ordinance, which council will consider at a future meeting, could affect development of a proposed mixed-use, 6-story complex at Southwest First Street and Lombard Avenue.

Bode, who supports tax exemptions to spur affordable housing projects, joined Arnold in opposing the amendment, which passed 3-2.

"I cannot support these amendments," she said. "I don't want to add anything on to it. I want this to go through."

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