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Board paves way for next step in Urban Renewal evolution

Progress awaits approval from surrounding governing bodies

The fate of Sandy’s second and third urban renewal amendments now rests in the hands of surrounding taxing jurisdictions.

At the City Council meeting on Monday, May 4, the city’s Urban Renewal Board OK’d two draft amendments to Sandy’s Urban Renewal Plan. Since being adopted in 1998, the plan was already amended once to increase the maximum indebtedness to $18 million.

The second of the proposed amendments would raise that number again to $67 million.

The first draft amendment would allow for land outside the city, in regard to islands surrounded by city land, to be excluded from the Urban Renewal area.

Although both amendments were approved by the board, the city must first get approval from 75 percent of its overlapping taxing jurisdictions, such as the Oregon Trail School District, Sandy Fire District and Clackamas County, before moving forward.

“We’re hoping in the next couple months to get these all wrapped up,” said Seth Atkinson, Sandy’s city manager.

On Monday, residents crowded council chambers to urge and caution the city’s decision to move forward with these amendments.

It seemed the biggest contention in the discussion was that of a renovation of the Olin Y. Bignall Aquatic center for a larger Recreation Aquatic campus, to which a large portion of the extended urban renewal funds would be dedicated.

Three people spoke about the pool and its positive influence on the Sandy community, thanking the city for doing all it can to keep it open.

But not everyone was in agreement.

“It just kind of scares me with the budget situation we’re in,” said Kathleen Walker, chair of the Sandy Park Board. Her concerns focused mostly around the costs of continuing to operate the facility once it is built.

Councilor Lois Coleman voiced her concern as well.

“To me, it is not a slam dunk that we’re going to buy the pool,” she said. “We’re not going to break the city to make a new pool. We have to see that the money and projects make sense. Please keep that in mind and know that we are watching the pennies.”

“This was the only mechanism that seemed like it had a chance,” said Councilor Jeremy Pietzold, who also was head of the committee to find a solution to the pool dilemma. “This is just the beginning and the first step. This doesn’t mean that it’s happening tonight.”

“I think everybody wants to look into this to see if we can make it work,” said Mayor Bill King at the end of Monday’s public hearing. “We’ve got to be able to see if we can come up with the money to build it (first).”

But the pool is not the only project proposed to be funded by a possible debt extension. In addition to the aquatic center, the money also would be used for general street improvements and an extension of 362nd Avenue, façade improvements downtown and a possible City Hall project as well as improvements to the Sandy Fire District’s main station.