Now with the recall campaign behind them, the West Linn City Council is moving swiftly towards removing more citizens’ rights and assisting developers in any way possible. The previously named “Cutting the Red Tape”, now called “Regulatory Streamlining”, but perhaps more accurately the “Developers Dream List”, is back on the agenda. The majority of proposed items come not from the citizens, but instead from staff and a survey completed by developers and their attorneys who put forward a wish list, most of which is now on the council’s agenda.

Items in Part One include removing the Historic 2003 City Council goals from the comprehensive plan, which identifies the city’s opposition to growth in the Stafford Basin and other items not codified elsewhere. The agenda items also seek to remove the right of citizens to de novo appeal while developers are still able to change up to 10 percent of their original plan, require neighborhood associations to pay for appeals, allow on-street parking to count toward minimal parking in developments, change tree protection and other issues that the Planning Commission have reviewed and rejected. The Part Two agenda will include California-style zero lot lines. This same Planning Commission that rejected the LOT project after listening to citizen’s views has now received the attention of City Manager Chris Jordan. Two of the hard-working commission members were replaced.

Despite the constant cry of financial woes in West Linn, Mr. Jordan has added approximately seven new positions to his staff. Included in these is an attorney that reports not to the elected City Council, but instead only to Mr. Jordan. While businesses generally reduce administrative staffing in times of financial shortfall, West Linn has expanded to a significantly larger number than is usual for communities of 25,000 citizens. The yearly salaries and benefits for these positions place a huge burden on the tax payers of West Linn. Vacancy rates for existing business and commercial developments in West Linn run at approximately 50 percent, as stated recently by one developer, considerably higher than in other surrounding communities. Multiple for lease signs are not a good advertisement for a vibrant and economically attractive city. Our council and staff should first be asking questions about the current vacancy rate before encouraging construction of more empty buildings.

Are the current rents too high? Businesses in West Linn have closed or are struggling because of this concern. Is access an issue? A failing intersection at 10th Street and major problems with Highway 43 perhaps make West Linn less attractive to businesses. More and more houses are being squeezed into the last buildable lots in West Linn thereby increasing housing density. Crowded developments and over building will change the look of the city we love. Perhaps instead of encouraging this and pandering to developers, our council should work on other ways to make West Linn more attractive and financially viable. Adjust the administrative staffing to an appropriate level for 25,000 citizens and reduce the current building vacancy rate. Then work with the West Linn citizens to maintain and protect the Stafford Basin and West Linn’s quality of life and livability as stated in the Historic 2003 City Council goals.

Brenda Perry is a West Linn resident

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