The pot is up to $3 million but finding matching funds puts a damper on spending the money

TIGARD - Money is piling up in Tigard's parks fund, thanks to the system development charges that are part of the fees paid for residential building permits.

The City Council at its fifth Tuesday meeting in August discussed the issue after John Frewing, who was sitting in the audience, questioned if the rates are too low and based on out-of-date data.

'We're missing out on dollars because parks SDCs are not keeping up,' Frewing said.

However, some of the councilors present raised issues connected with higher fees.

'We need to buy parkland, but I hate to increase the cost of housing,' said Sydney Sherwood, whose day job is executive director of the Good Neighbor Center.

She noted that there is a need for parks, but she doesn't want to keep driving up housing prices.

Nick Wilson added that 'the money is piling up, but we need to match it to spend it.'

Mayor Craig Dirksen noted that while Metro has a bond measure on the November ballot to purchase more open space, 'a lot of the (proposed) property is outside the urban growth boundary.'

He added, 'There's not enough (proposed property) inside that is more apt to be developed. We can have the parks staff look at the methodology for increasing SDCs to see if it is still valid.'

Tom Woodruff called the issue 'a big conundrum,' adding, 'we could raise SDCs, but people wonder where the money is going.'

The man with the answers is Parks Manager Dan Plaza, who said recently that the parks SDCs methodology was updated less than two years ago.

The current rates are as follows: single-family - $4,023; multi-family - $3,234; and manufactured housing - $3,190. Plus, every project that employs people is assessed at a rate of $273 per employee.

'The council was comfortable with it,' he said. 'We used estimates to figure the costs of buying parkland and developing it. We used that as the basis for the rates. I'm not sure I would come back every year with significant cost increases - maybe every five years.

'However, we would do it sooner if the council asked. The methodology also limits the amount of SDCs that can be spent. For example, SDCs can be used up to 54 percent for community parks. There are different percentages for greenways, trails, neighborhood parks and linear parks.'

Another limitation of SDCs is that the methodology limits their use to either purchasing land or developing it for a single project.

'The methodology doesn't allow us to spend 100 percent SDCs to purchase land plus 100 percent to develop it, even years later,' Plaza said. 'One of the most critical issues is that unless you use the 100 percent option, you have to have matching funds.

According to Plaza, the SDC funds were meant to be matched with grants, bond measures, donations, general fund dollars or other government funding, such as grants from Metro or Washington County.

The Tualatin River bike/pedestrian bridge that is now under construction is a perfect example of how SDCs are used.

Tigard contributed $341,907 in park SDCs plus $250,671 in Metro Transportation Improvement Program funds, which are administered by the counties, for a total of $592,578.

This amount was matched by funds contributed by an Oregon Department of Transportation grant, Clean Water Services and the cities of Durham and Tualatin.

'Part of the discussion we've had with council is what are we going to do with the SDC funds?' Plaza said. 'I think in the future they may ask for (voters to approve) a bond measure to raise the necessary matching funds.

'Now, to get matching funds, the council must approve spending general-fund dollars or a bond measure,' he said. 'We continue to collect SDCs, but our hands are tied if the city does not have the matching funds.'

The city's parks SDC fund now has about $3 million, according to Plaza.

'The council appropriated $500,000 from the general fund this fiscal year to spend as matching funds,' he said. 'Under the Metro bond measure, we're in line for (funds for) some local projects. Our SDCs are high enough. We based the current ones on an acre costing $250,000. We know land prices keep going up.'

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