Wilsonville makes the case for the 'Dip'
The City of Wilsonville defended its intent to extend the Year 2000 Urban Renewal District by three years, at the City Council meeting Monday, May 7, which would increase the maximum indebtedness of the district by over $14 million to construct the Boeckman 'Dip' Bridge.
The plan was approved by adjoining taxing districts, including the West Linn-Wilsonville School District and Clackamas County, and the council held a public hearing and passed a first reading of an amendment. Once the amendment is officially authorized, the City would then need to pass another resolution to approve bridge funding.
The plan would likely include the bridge's construction, adding pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, widening the roadway as well as removing a culvert and adding a natural stream and wildlife passage under the bridge.
In urban renewal districts, the City places the extra tax money garnered from increases in assessed property valuations from a "frozen base" into the urban renewal fund. Then it uses that money for City projects.
Wilsonville Community Development Director Nancy Kraushaar said the dip on Boeckman Road currently does not meet American Association of State Highway and Transportation guide-
lines due to its precipitous slope.
"The dip is too steep and dangerous," Kraushaar said. "The bridge was conceived so we could raise the elevation of the roadway to something that is comfortable to everyone walking, riding a bike, and it's good for school buses, firetrucks."
Wilsonville staff said they did not know if there is a history of accidents at the dip but Kraushaar said a few bikers had expressed uneasiness about making the trip up and down the slope.
"It is something not very good waiting to happen and at some point we had to do something about it," Council President Scott Starr said.
During the public hearing, some Wilsonville citizens questioned if the bridge is an appropriate use of funds and using urban renewal as a funding mechanism.
"I understand that there are issues with regard to safety, traffic and I appreciate those," Wilsonville resident Michael Healey said. "I also appreciate that it's $14.5 million and we can't guarantee whether it's (the cost) going to go up or down."
Healey was also concerned with the lack of alternative options presented at the meeting and the City countered that the resolution was simply to pass the urban renewal amendment and that further discussions about greenlighting bridge construction would take place at a later date.
Wilsonville Economic Development Manager Jordan Vance said the bridge would accommodate growth in the Frog Pond residential area and that the $2.7 million in revenue the City would forgo by extending the district would be made up once the projected 1,750 homes in the Frog Pond area are filled. Vance also said the City has been responsible in using urban renewal to fund projects and that the Year 2000 Urban Renewal District's value was $44 million in 2000 and $460 million today.
"We think this will improve the safety of the Boeckman 'Dip' Road for all modes of transportation. It will also help facilitate economic development in the Frog Pond area," Vance said.
City staff said using the urban renewal district is preferable to implementing a general obligation bond because, unlike a GO bond, extending the district would not raise taxes for Wilsonville citizens. They added that system development charges wouldn't generate enough revenue for the bridge unless they used the charges solely for the bridge. The City typically uses system development charges for a wide range of infrastructure projects.
And Kraushaar said while $14 million might seem like an exorbitant cost, it isn't considering the average cost of transportation projects.
"I hate to say it but in today's infrastructure, it's not that much," she said.
The $14 million number, though, is just an estimate produced by a consultant. If the urban renewal district amendment passes, the City would then conduct a more thorough analysis to assess the cost of the project.
Councilor Susie Stevens indicated that while the bridge might seem unnecessary, it will seem much more impactful in hindsight.
"The other thing I really like about Wilsonville and something I'm really proud of, it's something I learned about from Charlotte when she was mayor, is the idea of concurrency — that you build a transportation system not only to help today but to accommodate future growth," Stevens said. "Because if you don't take the time to do that then you are always playing catch up."