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City explores improvement district

by: FILE PHOTO - Woodburn's downtown would gain an enhanced level of services that would be paid for by fees assessed to business owners or property owners under the city's planned Economic Improvement District. Woodburn businesses could be asked to pay a special fee under a new plan introduced at last week’s city council meeting.

The so-called Economic Improvement District would first need to be approved by either business or property owners or both, but would become a mandatory funding source to revitalize commercial and industrial areas around the city.

An enabling ordinance, which the city hopes to have completed by the end of November, would provide the framework to establish the district, which would then need approval from more than two-thirds of business and/or property owners in the district.

Initially, the city would look to create the district downtown, but other districts could emerge along North Pacific Highway, around the Interstate 5 interchange or in industrial areas, said Robyn Stowers, urban renewal manager, during a presentation to the city council.

“The budget is going to depend on who is the managing organization and what they’re going to do with it,” Stowers said. “It would be spread across businesses and/or property owners.”

With city services still limited by revenue shortfalls, but the economy slowly improving, an EID could give a boost to improve the look and feel of business districts throughout the city, said City Councilor Lisa Ellsworth.

“We could have multiple districts in the city in commercial and industrial zones,” Ellsworth said. “Businesses downtown could put in funds to beautify that portion.”

City officials were reluctant to say how much the district would cost or what the boundaries would be before more research is completed.

The city will begin outreach efforts with downtown businesses to gain support.

EIDs have been successful in other cities, including Bend and Oregon City. Bend’s program features a variety of services, including a flower basket program, sidewalk cleaning and snow removal as well as events such as a sidewalk sale and holiday tree lighting.

Oregon City’s program features business assistance trainings, public art, promotions and special events such as a Quilting Festival, according to Stowers.

Woodburn has explored creating an EID in previous years, including in the 2010 Downtown Development Plan. Last year, the city had completed a feasibility study which estimated the cost of downtown enhanced services at $21,387 per year for litter patrol, Christmas lights and other services. It broke down different costs by store frontage with annual fees ranging from about $100 up to $800. The study could be used to determine what the future costs of the district might look like.

Councilor Jim Cox said getting merchants to buy into the program would be a critical first step for the success of the program.

“The idea has great possibilities,” Cox said. “Some of these services would never be done by city government. But businesses have to buy in to the concept. It can’t seem like we’re shoving it down their throats.”

The city will host a community presentation of the EID Nov. 18 at 9 a.m. The presentation will be in English and Spanish. The public is invited to attend the meeting, which will be held at City Hall, 270 Montgomery Street, in Woodburn.




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