Making Madras a convenient, friendly place to do business is the intent of two new ordinances approved by the Madras City Council Dec. 11.
>Design, construction standards, businesses licenses
The city adopted a public improvement design and construction standards ordinance, in addition to a new business license ordinance.
The design and construction standards will provide guidance for new developments and clarify standards for design engineers and consultants.
"These have been requested by the public, and staff believes that it has done a considerable amount of work in an attempt to gather feedback, input and comments by the public into the proposed document," noted City Administrator Gus Burril.
Nick Snead, director of the Madras Community Development Department, explained that the document also improves the ability of developers to understand the standards for public improvements by putting them together in one central document.
"Currently, the city's standards to which public improvements were constructed didn't reflect modern construction standards or those identified in city public facility plans," he said.
Business licenses clarified
Revisions to the business license ordinance are important since the ordinance had not been updated for many years, he added.
The changes to the ordinance provide needed clarification on several issues, such as which businesses need licenses, and whether or not nonprofits are required to obtain licenses.
Under the ordinance nonprofits are now required to obtain a license, but do not pay the license fee. "This is important as there are more nonprofits in our community," said Snead.
"This allows the city to communicate in a more timely manner to nonprofits what, if any, permits (e.g. land-use, building, and sign permits) are needed to conduct their services in the city, which the city hopes reduces the confusion and code enforcement for unintended code violations," he said.
The year-round business license fee is $50 inside the city limits and $65 outside, but there are also seasonal and temporary business licenses. For more information, contact the city at 541-475-2344.
SDC credits prior use
The City Council also approved changes to the Systems Development Charge Ordinance, which will allow credits for SDCs for prior uses of property -- dating back 20 years -- thus reducing the burden on developers.
The city has provided credits for development for prior use in the past, but the proposed amendments formally recognize current practices, Snead said.
As an example, he said, "For the movie theater, we gave them credit for the old motel that was there -- because there was a previous use. That placed a demand on our water, sewer and transportation infrastructure, so we gave them credit for that impact."
By researching how other cities provide SDC credits for prior use of property in Central Oregon, Snead said that he'd concluded "that we are consistent with other communities in being pro-development."
"The city staff believes that the city of Madras needs to remain competitive for economic development," he said. "This, amongst other strategies, creates a pro-business and pro-development climate in Madras."
The City Council also passed a resolution setting a minimum rate increase of 8 percent for city wastewater services for the next two years.
Last month, the city passed a resolution to consolidate and refinance its wastewater infrastructure debt to reduce the pace at which user rates are increasing.
The current rate for an individual household rose from $38.80 to $45 per month in October, and was expected to increase another 16 percent in July 2013 and 12 percent in July 2014.
Instead, the rate will increase 8 percent in July to $48.60, and another 8 percent for the 2014-15 fiscal year, when it will be $52.50 per month inside the city limits.
The resolution will provide consistency in the rate increases, and reduce the need for large rate increases from year to year.
Although it's possible that the rate will increase more than 8 percent, Kathy Snyder, city finance director, said that the city's focus when preparing its budget "is on paying off this debt."
City audit successful
Snyder, who has been with the city for the past year, has guided the city through a successful audit.
"We are delighted with the 2011-2012 audit results," said Snyder. "The finance staff has worked very hard this past year and focused on achieving this goal. It is a wonderful accomplishment."
"I didn't see anything significant wrong there," said Jason Tinder, audit manager with Pauly Rogers and Co., certified public accountants from Tigard, who said the results met state standards and were "materially correct."
The auditors' report states that the city's financial statements "present fairly, in all material respects, the respective financial position of the governmental activities ..."
The city's total net assets increased from $38.7 million to $40 million.