>Town hall meetings helped bring city staff closer to a solution
After two town hall meetings regarding the methodology of SDCs (System Development Charges), City of Prineville Planning Department staff feel that community members' suggestions will greatly help in updating the resolution that establishes the fees.
   Developers, contractors and realtors alike gathered at the meetings held on March 21 and April 1 to offer input on how to better assess the charges, which are allocated for the city's infrastructure costs of sewer, water and transportation.
   "There have been some really good suggestions that have come out of those," said Community Development Director Ricky Sites. "We feel pretty positive that people are giving this some serious thought and helping us with methodology on this."
   City Manager Robb Corbett agrees.
   "I think the meetings have allowed us to hear from members of the community about the way that we assess SDCs, and I think that the council and staff together have, through the discussions, been able to better understand it, whereas before, the way that they were assessed was not broadly known," he said.
   The public's comments will be compiled by planning staff into a format where they can be implemented into a new ordinance, Sites said. However, because of the complexity of the formulas used in assessing SDCs, they will not be able to implement all of the ideas. These will then be presented to an SDC committee, which is made up of a small group of planning staff members and city councilors.
   "The staff will be preparing the results of these meetings and how the applications might be applied into options for the committee to look at and discuss," Sites said.
   The new provisions will also have to be flexible enough to accommodate the city's soon-to-be-updated master plans.
   "How we can move it from one set of master plans to updated master plans will also be a consideration," she said.
   Probably the most concern at the meetings was expressed over the assessment of transportation costs, which are the most complex of the three.
   "That is a fairly complex issue because the transportation plan is an approved plan from Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), as well as from the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD)," Sites said. "It's not something that the city can unilaterally make a decision on." She also mentioned that the city is in need of a storm water plan, which will probably fall under the transportation plan. In the wake of the meetings, Sites feels that some of the best suggestions were on how to handle the water and sewer charges.
   "I think there was a pretty good consensus in the group that the best way to handle our water and sewer might be through meter sizes and a fixture count," she said. "That would be a more reasonable and fair way to assess people. Some formula that we can base those on would probably be the basis for it."
   More public meetings may be held, depending upon whether the SDC committee decides it need more input, Sites said, but for now, the endeavor at democracy has served the city well.
   "We're pleased that it wasn't just people coming to complain. There were people that had given it some serious thought and said, `How are we going to deal with this as a growing community?'" she said. "I feel great about it."
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