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After hearing concerns from county commissioner, board will discuss issue again at Oct. 25 meeting

The Chehalem Park and Recreation District board of directors was set to approve a 7 percent increase to its system development charges (SDCs) at its Sept. 27 meeting, but postponed that action for a month after concerns were raised by Yamhill County Commissioner Mary Starrett and the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland (HBA).

The CPRD went 13 years without increasing the fees it charges developers and builders on new housing construction, which contributed to the decision to raise them significantly in July 2017. The fee for a single family home, for instance, nearly tripled to $6,866 and with the proposed increase would be $7,353 beginning in July 2019.

At that time, the board also approved a plan to raise SDCs incrementally each year, also known as indexing, in order to avoid having to make such a drastic increase again and keep up with inflation.

Starrett attended the meeting in person, but also submitted a letter from HBA governmental relations manager James Adkins. Starrett, who is chairwoman of the Board of Commissioners, questioned the impact of the increase amid a growing affordable housing issue in the county and region, but also read aloud the HBA letter, which, among other things, characterized the notification process CPRD undertook ahead of the meeting as flawed.

Adkins specifically alleged that meeting materials posted online didn't include the methodology for raising the SDCs, but also called into question the validity of figures used to calculate how much to increase them. He was critical of the district's choice to use the Engineering Cost Record Index (ECRI), not only because it is much higher than the Consumer Price Index, but also because it is based on Seattle. Furthermore, because it is sourced from a subscription-based service, the formula for how the ECRI is determined is not a matter of public record.

"I would just respectfully ask you to reconsider this increase on the heels of another enormous increase, knowing that folks are really, their backs are being broken without ever putting a shovel in the dirt," Starrett said.

The board and Superintendent Don Clements pushed back somewhat on the criticism of its notification process, but eventually decided to postpone any vote to make sure the process passes legal muster.

Clements and several board members, however, strongly disagreed with Starrett and Adkins' assertions about how the proposed SDC increases will impact affordable housing.

Board member Peter Siderius said it was spurious to characterize new housing currently under construction in the Newberg area as affordable.

"If you look at the signs up towards the Alison, those are all half-million-dollar homes," Siderius said. "So if we're looking at affordable housing that's going to go in, unless the city and county and state allow much smaller lots with a lot smaller square footage, these people are going to build whatever they can to make the most amount of money out of them."

Siderius also pointed out that CPRD has a long record of waiving its SDCs for affordable housing organizations and nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity.

"If the builders would give up some of their land and say they're going to make truly affordable housing, we would be perfectly willing to give up our SDCs," Siderius said. "But I haven't seen it."

Board chairman Bart Rierson also noted that when developers and builders have approached the board in the past, CPRD has delayed collecting the fees until they have received a certificate of occupancy.

Clements also added that CPRD has already pushed back any indexed increases until July of next year and board member Lisa Rogers said raising SDCs isn't solely about keeping up with inflation, but also maintaining current service levels as the community grows.

Starrett and Adkins also alleged that the time posted online for the board meeting was changed from 7 p.m. to 6 p.m. CPRD requested evidence of the change, as board meetings have been set for 6 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of the month for several years now and information coordinator Kat Ricker responded that she made no changes to the website.

The board will take up the matter again at its Oct. 25 meeting and has posted information on the SDC methodology online at www.cprdnewberg.org.

Lastly, Starrett alleged that minutes from a CPRD meeting about trails in February were incomplete and potentially misleading because they did not include dissenting comments from one participant. The board said the omission certainly wasn't intentional and Clements said he would look into the matter and amend the minutes if necessary.

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