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Oregon City will implement improvement district

The downtown fee will help fund the nonprofit business advocacy group, Main Street Oregon City
by: submitted Lloyd Purdy

The Main Street Oregon City advocacy group will continue marketing the downtown area after a vast majority of property owners in the city's core agreed to pay a fee to fund the program.

This was the group's second attempt at securing funding through an Economic Improvement District. This time, Main Street Manager Lloyd Purdy created a smaller and more targeted district, and the City Commission voted 3-1 to establish a rate at 1 percent of assessed value.

Reduced to a four-year span, the Economic Improvement District will generate less than $99,000 annually. The maximum amount that any property owner pays went down to $1,950 from the $2,500 cap of the ordinance's previous incarnation. Vacant properties now will not be assessed a charge under the proposed tax.

The new district's boundary cuts out 11 of the original 90 properties, mostly North End or McLoughlin Boulevard property owners who had questioned the value of the EID outside the downtown core. Business leaders put forth a five-year proposal last year that they hoped would raise up to $135,000 annually, but landlords who owned more than one third of the value in that larger area objected, a threshold that, under state law, prevents the city from forming the district.

The new objection rate was only 10.73 percent.

Another parade of downtown business owners in favor of the measure testified before the commission during its second hearing. The Oregon City Chamber voted to support the revised EID.

'I'm in one word ecstatic,' said Lynda Orzen, co-founder of the Three Rivers Artist Guild, after the vote. 'We've done so much in a short amount of time on a shoestring that it'll be great to get to hunker down and complete some projects.'

Orzen, who's also secretary for Main Street Oregon City, was looking forward to the First City Arts Fair and the annual car show becoming self-sufficient and no longer needing city funding.

'We believe that this effort will in fact stabilize funding for this important nonprofit organization that's provided vital leadership to reinvigorate our downtown,' said Oregon City Chamber Executive Director Amber Holveck.

Citing worries about the representation of business owners, Commissioner Jim Nicita voted against the proposal and advocated delaying the process until more input could be solicited.

Purdy pointed out that the nonprofit's board includes business owners and nearby residents who do not own property downtown.

'It's a cross-representational board, because it takes a whole city to raise a downtown,' Purdy said.

The city's $50,000 annual startup funding for the Main Street program would have run dry at the end of March; the nonprofit also receives private donations and grant money for projects.

In addition to marketing downtown, the Main Street program facilitates seminars for business owners, coordinates special events and advocates for grant funding.