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Beaverton voters should support city's urban renewal plan

Beaverton's citizens have developed a compelling vision for what they want their city to become - one that includes enhanced livability and a more vibrant downtown.

Now, what's needed is a catalyst to reignite downtown investment and begin to fulfill the community's overall aspirations. Beaverton voters can help provide that spark simply by approving a well-conceived urban renewal plan that appears on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Measure 34-192, if approved, would create the Central Beaverton Urban Renewal District. The boundaries would include Old Town, Central Beaverton's office and commercial areas and the employment area east of Highway 217.

Once this district is formed, taxes from increased property values within that area will be used to pay for public investments that in turn will attract high-value private development. In this way, public dollars can be directed to downtown redevelopment without having any measurable effect on the typical homeowner's property tax bill.

Other cities have used urban renewal to trigger hugely successful renovations of otherwise lagging commercial districts. Portland's Pearl District and Lake Oswego's downtown area are just two nearby examples of urban renewal's ability to transform an area.

We have no doubt that Beaverton residents would like to see similarly good things happen within their central city. Citizens have said just that as part of the 2007 Beaverton Community Vision project that engaged more than 5,000 people in the task of community goal-setting. Improving the downtown area was a top objective identified during that process, and city leaders have responded with this particular urban renewal plan.

Supporters of the plan, however, did not stop there when it came to building consensus. They also met with the Beaverton School District, Washington County, Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue and Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District. Each of those agencies has endorsed the plan, recognizing that urban renewal will enhance property values and that the newly formed renewal district will eventually pay back more money than it would ever divert from their coffers.

Urban renewal can sometimes bring controversy. But this is a plan that's been requested by citizens and vetted by most everyone who has a vested interest. For those reasons, we believe this ought to be an easy decision for Beaverton voters: They should approve Measure 34-192, which will cost them virtually nothing, and then they should look forward to seeing downtown change for the better.