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Council shrugs off Fairview development incentive proposal

After an indifferent City Council response to a poll regarding proposed changes to Fairview’s controversial development incentive program, Mayor Ted Tosterud — but not all councilors — considers it a dead issue.

Responding to residents’ concerns that the recently-adopted program was too generous to developers, Tosterud forwarded Troutdale Finance Director Eric Mueller’s proposed changes to councilors. They included extending system development charges (SDCs) discounts to all development projects, not just vacant land; reducing SDCs from a full waiver to a 75 percent waiver; and removing the discount for fees related to city parks development, one of residents’ biggest concerns.

Setting an April 1 deadline for feedback, Tosterud emailed proposed changes to councilors on Monday, March 28, noting that a lack of response would count as a “no” vote.

Poll results were read at the Wednesday, April 6, meeting. Councilors Dan Kreamier and Ed Bejarana responded negatively to the proposed changes, Councilor Steve Prom favored them, while Councilors Brian Cooper, Tamie Tlustos-Arnold and Natalie Voruz did not respond.

“I didn’t want any other discussion to it,” Tosterud said. “We have talked this thing to death. I did not want to have another contentious conversation about this.”

Approved last November and broadened in February, the development incentive program waives city fees for developers of vacant land. Faced with numerous citizen complaints, Tosterud held a community meeting in March to discuss the issues. The meeting, one of the best attended in Fairview’s history, concluded with Mueller’s submitted proposal that the mayor directed to councilors.

“My whole purpose of this was to, No. 1, educate the citizens on what SDCs were, and No. 2, listen to some citizen solutions — which we did — and take those back to council,” he said. “And I did with a poll. I did not plan on doing (the vote) with council and wasting that time unless they were really interested.”

Unlike the mayor, Cooper expects to resolve the incentive program controversy and expressed frustration with the council’s response.

“I am greatly disappointed regarding the unresponsiveness this council has shown to the citizens of Fairview — myself included,” Cooper said. “An email was sent out, and I did not see it nor respond to it. Wednesday night, my vote was counted as a ‘no’ vote despite verbal communications to the contrary.”

Cooper plans to revisit the situation at the April 20 council meeting.

“The citizens did everything we asked, and all they asked for is to be heard and for this business incentive to be reconsidered,” he said. “With three councilors not participating in the email, we as a council have failed the citizens. I hope to fix that oversight at the next meeting.”

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