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Troutdale waterfront project hits roadblock

With the Troutdale Urban Renewal Area set to expire in 15 months, the Eastwind Development project on the waterfront is in peril.

Junki Yoshida, of Troutdale, started the process to purchase 12 acres in the URA in August, but has been unable to move forward.

“If the city doesn’t extend the term for borrowing, the entire project will die,” said Matt Wand, attorney representing the Yoshida Group.

This is because the $7 million allowed indebtedness from the Urban Renewal Agency is meant to build an access road behind the outlet mall.

“The need for that road was created when the city approved the building but didn’t leave space for a throughway,” Wand said. “If the city doesn’t correct its mistake, then the property won’t ever be developed. Nothing good happens if the city doesn’t borrow that money to build that road.”

In order to finance construction before the URA expires, financing would have had to begin last summer, Wand said.

“It takes a long time to underwrite these bonds,” he said. “They decided not to start, they decided to extend (the URA). If they change their mind now, it kills the project.”

Troutdale Mayor Doug Daoust said “great potential” was envisioned for the URA.

“Through significant public involvement, the Troutdale Riverfront Renewal Plan to eliminate blight and foster development and redevelopment, was approved by the voters in 2006,” Daoust wrote in his monthly Mayor’s Corner column. “The purpose of a URA is to facilitate the development or redevelopment of property which has become run down, dilapidated and in need of ‘renewal’ so that it will more substantially contribute to our community.”

The project hinges on a final sale price, pending appraisal. Daoust said the appraisal needs some negotiations before an agreement can be reached. A timeline, however, is not set for those negotiations.

“Our position is that the city’s appraisal didn’t follow the terms sheet,” Wand said. “Their failure to follow the term sheet, passed unanimously by the council, has delayed the entire project.”

Eastwind’s appraisal was completed in the summer, but Wand said Troutdale didn’t begin work on its appraisal until September.

“By the time the city got an appraisal, which is an incorrect one, it was already too late to extend the terms,” Wand said.

Daoust said he supports renewing the URA and acknowledged that not doing so would effectively stop any development efforts by the Yoshida Group or any other interested parties.

“There’s discussion around whether to extend it another 10 years for a total of 20 years,” Daoust said. “From my point of view, that’s totally acceptable to give time to go through a development phase with that property. I’m not sure what the consensus of the council is at this time. It’s not unusual for an urban renewal area to have a period of 20 to 25 years. That happens a lot in other cities.”

Daoust said by making the URA a 10-year plan to begin with, Troutdale cut itself short.

“Since it happened right before the downturn in the economy, which basically slowed us down for eight years,” he said. “That’s what we’re dealing with. Nothing happened because of the economic slow down, so we need to allow more time for development to happen and more time for us to take that $7 million loan out, whenever the best time is for that to occur.”

Daoust said extending the URA wouldn’t increase the city’s debt.

“It will not increase the maximum indebtedness of $7 million, just allow more time to complete projects in the plan,” Daoust said in his column. “The council will continue to revise the URA plan as circumstances and economic conditions evolve. A new public amenity of a Sandy River waterfront park is one of the prime goals of our URA, and we encourage public involvement in the redevelopment process.”

However, these delays also mean the sheep carcasses discovered buried on the land remain in place.

“I had told the city when we started negotiating this land transaction, as soon as I had a closing date and a signed contract, that we would move forward with the sheep removal,” Wand said. “That’s what I said from day one. Even though they didn’t come through with that, I still incurred almost $100,000 in debt preparing to do that.”

The sale terms included that Eastwind Development would remove the sheep carcass pit in October, but when the appraisal came back from the city that month, Wand said he had to delay moving forward.

“I can’t spend that money until we know the project is real and I have an agreement with the property,” he said. “We had everything ready to go.”

Wand said he wanted to make it clear that they had not asked for the URA renewal.

“Once they told us they were going to extend it again, even though we didn’t ask, we then put our effort and project on a timeline that matched up with them extending,” he said. You can’t crack that like a whip. We’re close to six months after they committed to extend the term. It makes it very difficult to trust the city when they keep delaying and not following through with their promises. “

The URA will be discussed in the near future by the council, potentially at the Jan. 20 meeting, although a formal agenda has not yet been set.

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