Adams completes most of wish list before final City Council vote

Mayor Sam Adams got most — but not all — of his final wish list through the City Council before its last meeting of the year. But a number of big ticket items remain unresolved for the next mayor to tackle in 2013.

The current council held its final meeting on Thursday, Dec. 20. The next meeting is not scheduled until Wednesday, Jan. 2. By then Mayor-elect Charlie Hales will have replaced Adams. Steve Novick will also have filled the council seat being vacated by Commissioner Randy Leonard.

When asked by the Portland Tribune, Adams outlined a lengthy final wish list of projects a few months ago. He persuaded the council to go along with most of the items, including selling bonds to complete the Portland Streetcar Loop over the coming Willamette River Transit Bridge and approving a parking plan for Northwest Portland.

But Adams was stymied on three major items before time ran out. Hales will now have to decide whether and how to push them forward.

The three items are:

• The annexation of 800 acres of West Hayden Island.

The proposal was intended to allow the Port of Portland — which owns the land — to develop 300 acres on the island. The remaining 500 acres would be maintained and enhanced as wildlife habitat.

Adams' final proposal called on the Port to pay over $30 million to protect island residents against the development impact and mitigate any environmental damage. Although the Port was open to the proposal, many island residents and environmentalists oppose it, in part because it was proposed at the last minute.

The city is under pressure to identify more land for industrial development. It is currently undating its Comprehensive Land Use Plan, as required by state law. An analysis prepared as part of the update identified a shortage of 635 acres of industrial land for future use, with 356 of those acres being in the Portland Harbor where West Hayden Island is located.

This is the first time the city has been required to present the state with a Comp Plan update that eliminates the gap in industrial lands. Until recently, the Department of Land Conservation and Development required all cities to only comply with the state’s environmental protection goals in their Comp Plans. New DLCD rules now require that state land use employment goals also be met.

• The renovation of the Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Adams had crafted a plan to partner with the Portland Winterhawks and spend $31.5 million on the aging Coliseum. The plan would maintain it as a spectator facility, upgrade the heating, cooling and plumbing systems, and replace the ice floor where the hockey team plays.

The plan suffered a setback, however, when the Western Hockey League imposed huge sanctions on the Winterhawks for rules violations. They are the harshest in WHL history and include a $200,000 fine, the loss of nine draft picks, and the suspension of team General Manager Mike Johnston for the remainder of the season.

The team’s appeal was delayed until February, creating uncertainty about its future. As a result, Adams postponed the scheduled vote until March 13 of next year, when the new council will be seated.

• A memorandum of understanding to encourage the city to move some of its offices to the Gateway area.

The proposal was intended to help spark development in Gateway, which is covered by a city-approved Urban Renewal Area that has not yet encouraged much new private investment. Adams had talked earlier about wanting to see a catalytic project undertaken in the area that would trigger a wave of development.

The council hesitated to support the MOU, however, because the city already has approximately 26,000 square feet of vacant office space downtown. The issue has simmered throughout Adams’ tenure, in part because he was also pushing for the construction of an experimental, environmentally-sensitive building called the Oregon Sustainability Center where some city office would be relocated.

The OSC was to be built in partnership with the Oregon University System. The plan fell apart when the Oregon Legislature would not approve the sale of state bonds for the project.

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