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Mayor updates State of City with predictions of growth

This last year the City of Estacada has seen quite a lot of progressive activity, among which includes close to 50 new housing starts; construction of Wade Creek Park's initial phases with new playground equipment, trails, landscaping and a covered gazebo; street improvements such as 4th street straightening and repaving; completion of a Transportation System Master Plan; and City Council approval of an Urban Renewal District, covering most all of the city's downtown commercial core. Several new businesses have also opened that provide needed services and products to our residents.

Although the threat of a recession with rising fuel costs, the subprime mortgage fiasco and a slowdown in the housing construction and related industries is threatening across the United States, the Northwest, particularly the Portland Metro area, has weathered these events very well so far.

Although the future is always challenging to predict, Estacada's city budget remains healthy and, I believe, its future bright.

The City Council and budget committee monitors our city budget progress quarterly and recommends adjustments to priorities where needed.

Funding of infrastructure improvements for streets, water and parks are scheduled for implementation consistent with council goals and makes the most sense since these are the types of public investments Estacada needs for the future. Highway 224 improvements for safety and livability within the city limits will begin the planning process with citizen input this year and we anticipate construction and repaving to begin in early 2009.

I see our two most fundamental and exciting challenges with beginning planning for urban renewal and updating the city's comprehensive plan. Both of these plans, and the public input processes associated with them, will provide for a strong commitment to the future of our community, for our current citizens and their children.

For example, the comprehensive plan will serve as the framework for where we desire more housing, commercial, industrial businesses with family-wage jobs, parks and future streets. It is really the future picture of what we would like to see in Estacada.

The urban renewal plan in the commercial core of the city will concentrate on public infrastructure improvements such as streets, more parking and pedestrian-friendly sidewalks and crossings that will serve present businesses needs and ultimately attract new ones. I believe we need to preserve and build upon our commercial downtown core as one of Estacada's top priorities.

I admit that any vision of the future may not be perfect, but with a creative vision and a commitment to it, we can achieve almost anything we desire. I believe that even with the beginnings of a potential national economic slowdown, the city of Estacada, as part of the very stable Portland Metro area, is well poised to stay healthy and to continue meeting the needs of its citizens today and well into the future.

I'd like to follow up with a few additional thoughts. The city of Estacada's population today is almost 2,700 people. When the available (750-850) new residential lots for new single-family homes are built and occupied, our population may grow by another 2,250 people or more to around 5,000.

How soon that may happen is difficult to predict, however, that higher population level, whenever it is reached, would still be within the capacity of our water and sewer systems capacity today.

Other needs that are a priority include encouraging development and/or annexation of suitable industrial land to provide family-wage jobs locally.

We appear to have a more than adequate supply of residential land presently. Development or redevelopment of commercial property within the city's downtown core is also needed and is well within the scope of the city's newly formed Urban Renewal District. Continuing to attract businesses to serve our current citizens and for those visitors who use the nearby Clackamas River and Mt. Hood National Forest for tourism is also a priority, I believe, for the city and Chamber of Commerce.

Economic forecasts continue to change almost daily since I first wrote this State of the City address in early January. I have listened recently to our state legislators and economists cautiously predict flat and stable income projections for Oregon in 2008. We hear almost daily news reports about a weakening stock market and that construction of new housing continues to slow, although the Portland area is still stronger than other areas in Oregon, such as Bend in Central Oregon and in many other parts of the United States.

Thankfully, Estacada has grown slowly yet steadily, and is still a viable and economical community.

With all of these economic issues and an uncertain economy, careful planning for the future is still essential for us to pursue. In fact, the Metro Regional Government, including the counties of Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington, are beginning a two-year public planning process for designating both rural and urban reserves-areas to preserve for future safekeeping for farm and forest land as well as areas to consider for needed urban development in the future.

Just as the larger regional area is planning today for the future, we must do so as well. The City of Estacada will soon be engaging the public on updates to our city's comprehensive plan. It is important to us all to be involved in these processes, to look into the future 20, 30 years and beyond, so we can continue to maintain our sense of 'Place' that defines Estacada and our quality of life.