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Arch bridge, municipal fiber planning continue to progress

Request for Proposals for fiber consultant to be sent later this month

Slowly but surely, West Linn is moving forward with alternative plans for the Arch Bridge area.

At a May 2 work session, the City Council received the first in a series of periodic updates on its 2016 goals. Planning for redevelopment in the Arch Bridge area was one of the top priorities when the council adopted its 2016 goals, and more specifically the City set out to “hold property owner meetings, community engagement, neighborhood association outreach and town hall meetings to prepare potential development alternatives and examine zoning options and other potential measures to preserve property values and meet long-term planning goals.”

The original concept plan for riverfront development near the Old Oregon City-West Linn Arch Bridge, adopted by a different council in 2014, called for modest development additions in the area north of Interstate 205 while envisioning dramatic redevelopment in the area south of the freeway, including condominiums, a parking garage, commercial and office space, retail shops and a hotel.

Yet public backlash spilled into a new City Council early last year and a contract with a consulting firm hired in April 2015 to advance the approved concept plan was later suspended indefinitely.

At the May 2 work session, City consultant John Morgan was able to alleviate at least one ongoing concern: the City, he said, was not violating its prior grant agreement with Metro by reexamining its plans and terminating the remaining $77,000 on a contract with the Cogan Owens Greene consulting firm, which was hired to help implement the original plan. In April, City Councilor Thomas Frank said he was concerned that Metro would ask for a return of the $220,000 in grant funds awarded in 2013.

“The Metro grant was completed, paid out and closed,” Morgan said. “There’s absolutely no reason we can’t terminate the contract.”

Moving forward, the City is working to schedule further discussions with property owners in the area, and staff will also examine how best to use the $77,000 freed up as a result of the contract termination.

“By freeing up some of the money, we can bring in the resources we need to do a fairly small study of funding alternatives,” Morgan said. “(It will) give us a good framework for the funds we have available, how they might be applied and what we might gain.”

Meanwhile, the City’s Economic Development Committee is working on a survey to send out to residents in the hopes of learning more about what the community truly wants in redeveloping the area. City Councilor Bob Martin, for his part, said that involving citizens early on during the alternative planning process would be crucial.

“Just like we want to establish trust with these business owners whose land is going to be affected, we want to establish same trust with this neighborhood,” Martin said.

Fiber update

A goal to examine the feasibility of a municipal fiber network in West Linn also continues to move forward, according to Information Technology Manager Shane Boyle.

When the council adopted its goals in January, staff was directed to begin the search for a consultant who would evaluate the market in West Linn and deliver a report about the pros and cons of creating a City-owned fiber network. Such a network would deliver Internet connections that are about 100 times faster than broadband.

Boyle said the tentative schedule is to get a Request for Proposal (RFP) for consultants out by May 30, and for the results of the study to be presented to the council in October.

“It’s been a fascinating and fun research project,” Boyle said. “Even if a consultant comes along and says we shouldn’t do it, the education along the way has been great.”