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A lesson in what could have (should have) been

The Cabela’s on the Sandy River was crowded this season. I took my kids along to try out some fishing poles while I looked at boats near the dock.

The city had already taken down the tree and decorations from the middle of the commercial area behind the Troutdale Outlet Mall, which has been newly remodeled and now has a well-placed parking structure on top of what used to be a sludge pond.

We walked across the pedestrian bridge to the downtown, where we got hot chocolate and relaxed in the Multnomah County Library on the street level of the building that burned down a decade ago.

MATT WANDOn the way home, we saw people working on the condo-buildings on the east side of 257th Avenue, the luxury condos where lots of retirees live just a short distance from the new office buildings that have been built downtown over the past several years.

Luckily, much of the economic downturn was felt in other areas because Troutdale had already built well before the collapse.

Of course, there also were plenty of construction jobs in Troutdale because of the NASCAR construction.

It took a few years, but now every summer we have an incredible event that helped everyone in town manage the Great Recession.

This thought experiment is what could have been, except none of these things happened.

In each instance, a toxic combination of a lack of vision and inadequate skill caused the city of Troutdale and its elected leaders to stop those ideas in their tracks.

The Cabela’s in the Metro area will be built in Tualatin. Originally, the developer wanted to build it along the Sandy River in Troutdale’s Urban Renewal District.

A city councilor stated we didn’t want “big box retail” in our town. Then the city (apparently being unaware that he is one of the most well-respected developers in East County) called trade references to check up the developer’s credit. He decided it wasn’t worth the hassle.

The Urban Renewal Area remains undeveloped today, about seven years later. Many of the same city councilors voted to spend $300,000 of taxpayer money to purchase an option to build a street due east through the Outlet Mall building to access the Urban Renewal Area. After sending this taxpayer money to an out-of-state national corporation, they let it expire without getting anything in return.

The city is directly responsible for the existence of a trailer park on the parcel with perhaps the best scenic view in the city along the east side of 257th Avenue.

Had the city simply said “yes,” we would have nice condos and a substantially higher tax base from the land. Instead, the developer showed his distaste for the city’s shenanigans by naming a street after the then-city attorney.

That burned out building in downtown that sat for more than a decade?

There were at least two instances when it would have been redeveloped, if not for the city government’s involvement. In one instance, a builder wanted additional height for housing above commercial space. The city refused.

Then, a builder wanted additional parking to help pencil out adding the Multnomah County Branch Library at that location, again, the city refused.

The eyesore remains.

For NASCAR, the city ended the discussion before it began.

An official approached our local business owners, who simply asked the City Council to participate in the discussion. They refused.

Time and time again, over many years, the city planners in Troutdale and the Troutdale City Council have wilfully kept our town from becoming self-sufficient.

We are left to brave the Banfield Freeway, MAX and bus lines to go to work downtown in a long commute, while many of our best and brightest young people simply decide that it isn’t worth the commute and move to the west side.

It is time for the city to get out of the way and let our town thrive.

Matt Wand of Troutdale writes a monthly column for The Outlook. He is an attorney with a law practice based in Gresham since 2006. He has served as a Troutdale City Councilor and state representative from East County. He lives in Troutdale with his wife and three children.



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