The future appearance and configuration of downtown Silverton, as well as the fate of its few remaining penny parking meters, was the continuing topic of discussion Feb. 17.
The public was invited to review the results of participant votes and comments made at a January meeting regarding possible downtown improvements.
The most consequential issue for downtown’s future is Silverton’s Downtown Street Enhancement Project, initially focused on the East Main Street block between First and Water streets.
Five concepts, ranging from pruning street trees to removing them to replacing them and creating a block-encompassing plaza, were presented.
Citizens also voiced opinions on dealing with the oft-complained about 253 parking meters in town. Of the four meter plans presented, the overwhelming winner, with 59 percent of the vote, entailed removing all of them and establishing parking areas outside the downtown core for employees and merchants.
Comments may be submitted
before March 7 to:
Silverton Community Development Dept.,
Steve Kay, Silverton City Hall,
306 S. Water St. or to
Video and PowerPoint presentations
from the Feb. 17 and Jan. 27 public
meetings are available on the City of
Silverton website: www.silverton.or.us
“Only 27 original penny meters remain,” said Silverton Community Development Director Steve Kay. “It is estimated that all 253 meters will be the more common digital variety within the next five years.”
There were only a handful of brief comments on each parking idea. Several suggested a time limit on parking.
However, that creates a similar scenario to the current situation, where all meter and ticket money goes to pay for two part-time enforcement officers.
Under the new plan the fines would get “much higher.”
The audience also learned that building a three-story parking structure with 90 stalls would cost nearly a million dollars.
One citizen’s suggestion would not break the bank – relocate the remaining penny meters to a place where they could both be on display and be receptacles for collecting charitable donations. Another suggested keeping one of the penny meters at an historical display location.
Preference for the most radical change also prevailed in the street enhancement project; Concept 5, with a $593,000 price tag, drew the most profuse outpouring of enthusiasm.
Although there were reservations about how it would be funded – and many suggestions to move it over one block to Oak Street – the pedestrian mall/gathering place received 42 percent of the votes cast.
Getting nearly as serious about the original oak tree in the center of town as the pioneers rumored to have drawn guns at its “slaying,” one scientific-minded individual recommended that Silverton obtain viable DNA from its stump enshrined at the museum. It could be cloned by Oregon State’s plant genetics department, he suggested, so it may live once more in the center of Homer Town.
Here and there in the sea of suggestions appeared another sentiment: “There was no option to leave the town as it is; I vote to leave it be!”
Kay said the existing Urban Renewal Fund possesses enough funding to move forward during the 2011-2012 fiscal year with any one of the concepts presented.
Mayor Stu Rasmussen, however, commented at the meeting that he prefers a pay-as-you-go approach to improvements – and only those that “keep Silverton Silverton.”
Rasmussen added that there is a $1 million dollar deficit for the urban development funding.
“Urban Renewal agencies are set up to incur debt,” Silverton City Manager Bryan Cosgrove said later. “The mayor’s pay-as-you-go approach is one way to view urban renewal, but it is not how a majority of urban renewal agencies carry out their urban renewal plans.
“All of the city’s major operating budgets have some level of debt. We carry debt in our General Fund (Pool Bond), Water Fund (treatment plant upgrades) and Wastewater Fund (treatment plant upgrades).
“The urban renewal agency is authorized to issue debt to move projects along in an expedited manner. The debt service payments we currently carry in our urban renewal budgets have a very low interest rate tied to the local government investment pool, which currently sits near 2.5 percent.”
A committee including downtown merchants, property owners, and interested citizens would oversee the ultimate design of any streetscape changes.
The report will be presented to Silverton’s City Council and Urban Renewal Agency March 7. Among the options: decide to proceed with engineering and/or traffic analysis for a selected project or postpone it for further citizen input or until additional funding is available.
Urban renewal agencies are a state-sanctioned program enabling communities to improve and renew targeted areas within a defined zone through tax increment financing.
In Silverton, the city council serves a dual role by serving as the Silverton Urban Renewal Agency (SURA).
“Tax increment” financing provides funding to assist in revitalization efforts.
SURA, acting on the recommendations in the Silverton Downtown Master Plan, Silverton Urban Renewal District Plan, and through direct feedback from citizens and business owners, identifies desirable improvements within the urban renewal zone.
SURA issues urban renewal bonds to pay for the improvements, or funds improvements directly on a pay-as-you-go basis.
As property values increase in the urban renewal area, the increased revenues are used in paying off the existing debt.
More than 40 Oregon cities and counties currently have urban renewal programs.