Happy Valley, Milwaukie, Gladstone leaders speak at chamber meeting on Feb. 21

Balancing growth and livability was a frequent topic for the mayors who spoke last week at the North Clackamas Chamber's State of the Cities.

PHOTO BY RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Chamber representative Ernie Platt introduces, from left, Happy Valley Mayor Lori Chavez-DeRemer, Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba and Gladstone Mayor Tammy Stempel.All of the region's mayors attended the event except for Oregon City Mayor Dan Holladay, who is planning to deliver his own state-of-the-city speech in March through the OC Chamber.

Gladstone Mayor Tammy Stempel spoke at the Feb. 21 event just prior to the City Council holding a work session on the construction of new civic buildings. The new library will be built on the current site of City Hall and the police station, while the City Hall and police station is heading north a couple of blocks on Portland Avenue to the site of the city's Public Works Department. Meanwhile, Gladstone's Portland Avenue is being re-envisioned through a new revitalization plan.

"We're going to have a beautiful Portland Avenue, so everyone's going to want to relocate to Gladstone just for that," Stempel said. "We're a small town, and we want to maintain that small-town feel."

Stempel said elected officials are "creating the basis for thoughtful growth" by revisiting codes and ordinances that hadn't been updated since the 1970s.

Milwaukie also is planning a new library, which will be located at the current Ledding Library site on Southeast 21st Avenue. Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba's top goal is housing affordability, given that about 25 percent of renters in Milwaukie spend more than 50 percent of their income on housing. Many rents have risen more than 50 percent in the three years since the construction of the Orange Line.

Gamba hopes to house some of the families of 400 homeless school kids at a remnant lot from TriMet's construction of the light-rail line. Equity, livability and sustainability are the "three cornerstones" of the vision plan recently adopted by the City Council, based on citizen input.

"The transformation that citizens envisioned will create an extraordinary place to live," Gamba said. "We're running out of places for people to live; that is our big challenge."

Gamba hopes to change the name of the North Milwaukie Industrial Area to the North Milwaukie Innovation Area to reflect the district's new focus on creative and mixed uses, and what Gamba called "industry of the future." Milwaukie's Riverfront Park is now called Milwaukie Bay Park to get away from a name that is shared by hundreds of other parks to a name unique to Milwaukie that the city had used historically.

Milwaukie staff have been sending out packets of information to retailers in an effort to fill the vacancy caused by the closure of Albertsons a few years ago.

"I've had several meetings with a couple of grocery chains," Gamba said. "It's a strange time for grocery chains. ... Stay tuned; we're still working on it."

Happy Valley Mayor Lori Chavez-DeRemer said her city has put itself on the map by going from a bedroom community to welcoming many more businesses to the area.

"Just in the past two years we've made significant strides," she said. "Now nobody asks, 'Where is Happy Valley.'"

Following the disincorporation of Damascus, Happy Valley has been flooded with applications by people wanting to enter the city, Chavez-DeRemer said. Unlike other cities, Happy Valley hasn't attempted to annex unwilling property owners in an attempt to get more tax revenue for the city.

"While annexations are controversial in cities, we do it a little differently in Happy Valley," she said.

In May, the city will ask citizens to pay the same 54 cents per $1,000 of assessed property-tax value that they had been paying to the North Clackamas Parks & Recreation District. Chavez-DeRemer expressed a hope for a quick resolution of the lawsuit that the city filed during its process to become independent of NCPRD last year.

Over the next eight to 10 years, the Scouters Mountain development will bring hundreds of residents. Happy Valley got $500,000 from Metro, funded by construction excise taxes, to study how to create a comprehensive plan for the Pleasant Valley area on the east side of the city.

Chavez-DeRemer would like to create a new downtown, which the city currently lacks.

"We kind of have a blank slate on the east side," she said.

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