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Gresham council considers proposed changes to 2008 system of funding parks

SDCs process last updated in 2008 -

FILE PHOTO - The Gresham City Council earlier this year.Gresham City Council is mulling an update to its Parks System Development Charges, which could streamline the process, address park deficiencies within the city and retain low rates. The Parks SDC methodology and project list was last updated in 2008 — so a reworking of the system is necessary.

SDCs are a tool Oregon cities use to fund new or expanded infrastructure. The charges are paid by a property owner or developer when their development increases demand on water, sewer, stormwater, transportation or parks systems.

“Park SDCs and grants are the two things we rely heavily on to build and expand our parks,” said Steve Fancher, Gresham’s Department of Environmental Services director, during a city council meeting Tuesday, Oct. 11. “It has been a while since we last revisited these things.”

Park SDCs cannot be used to maintain existing parks, only to add new developments.

Two possible outcomes will take place. Either the council can decide to maintain the current SDC methods at a new indexed rate, or they can adopt the suggested changes. Both will increase the amount of SDC funds, though if the suggestions are upheld, it will have less of an impact on the community’s bottom-line.

The next steps will be for officials to incorporate council’s feedback, and then begin public outreach. A final vote of adoption will take place on Jan. 17, 2017.

Fancher’s department highlighted four changes for council to consider:

• Changes could be made to how the city purchases designated riparian greenspaces, as it is a costly process. While it is important to protect the spaces on the rivers from over-development, the proposal calls for a better way than directly buying them with SDC funds. This could be done by placing a conservation overlay along the corridors, achieving the same goals and placing the onus of conservation on private citizens.

• The master list used in the SDC process, which is the only way for parks to take advantage of the funding, also needs to be updated. Several projects could be added to the list, including Hogan Butte Nature Park, the Vance Park parking lot, Columbia View Park and different spaces across the Rockwood and Civic plan districts.

• Several sites could also be removed or have a scope reduction, providing a cost savings to the community. Fancher says removing city purchase of greenways and one of the two planned community parks in the Springwater plan district would be beneficial. He also suggested shifting paths along roadways to the Transportation SDC and reducing the scale of Zimmerman Farm Community Park and Southwest Neighborhood Park.

• Eliminating commercial and industrial obligations toward Parks SDCs would help administratively while only having a slight negative effect on the overall collections. Residential development accounts for about 98 percent of the Parks SDC funding, and collecting on commercial and industrial developments is a time-consuming and difficult process for city officials.

The councilors took time to discuss the issue after the presentation, and the early response seemed inclined to support the proposed changes. All agreed that increasing funding for parks was important, and that any changes should make the process more streamlined.