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Silverton City Council Process begins for affordable housing

City of Silverton

By James Day

The City of Silverton is getting into the affordable housing business. Officials have identified a seven-acre parcel of city-owned land west of the Silverton Senior Center for the project. The issue was discussed at the June 5 City Council session, although final decisions are months or perhaps years away.

The city might start by developing just a two-acre chunk of the property, although they noted that wetlands issues on the acreage, whether two acres or the full seven, must be resolved prior to development. The city plans to initiate a “request for qualifications” process to create a short list of potential development partners. Jason Gottgetreu, city community development director, said a land trust approach to the property ownership might make the project easier for developers to pencil out.

Mayor Jason Freilinger attached a sense of urgency to the project, saying that if the city doesn’t address housing issues the state might impose solutions of its own.

DEQ Fine: The city has resolved its water quality case with the state Department of Environmental Quality. The DEQ on Feb. 7 issued a $42,130 fine for discharges into Silver Creek that exceeded the city’s permitted levels of ammonia 32 times and for total suspended solids 24 times between May 2021 and August 2022. 

The city appealed the fine, agreeing that the violations occurred but saying that it involved errors by an employee who is no longer with the city. Officials also asked that the fines be reduced. They have altered water treatment plant procedures to make it less likely that further illegal discharges can occur and noted that no further violations had been discovered since August. 

The DEQ and the city reached an agreement that reduced the fine to $35,660. A total of $28,528 must be spent on a DEQ-approved environmental project, the remaining $7,132 due to be paid to the state.

The city also has added water quality oversight to the city’s Environmental Management and UrbanTree Committee, chaired by Councilor Eric Hammond.

City Manager: The city has hired the Mid-Valley Council to Governments to head its search for a new city manager. The new administrator will replace Ron Chandler, who left May 12 to move to Utah.

Finance Director Kathleen Zaragoza is serving in Chandler’s role on a pro tem basis. 

Scott Dodson of the Mid-Valley COG briefed the council on the process. He gave councilors “homework” to help him learn what the city is seeking. Councilors will discuss their views at a June 26 work session.

Silverton pays the COG approximately $6,000 per year for services that are part of its general membership. The city manager search will cost another $13,300.

RV Park: Efforts by a developer to place a recreational vehicle park on Mill Street just north of Mark Twain school have been rejected by the Silverton Community Development Department. Gottgetreu said the proposal did not meet all applicable Silverton development code review criteria and standards. The proposed use, he said, did not meet the definition of a retail sales and service, entertainment-oriented, recreation vehicle park. 

“The applicant submitted a letter stating the proposed development was a residential area for affordable housing with indefinite land leases which is not allowed in an industrial zone,” Gottgetreu said. The applicant, he said, also failed to meet minimum standards for street improvements, buffering and screening, pedestrian circulation, bicycle parking, utility location and sizing, and access requirements.

No appeal of the city decision was filed, which means the matter is closed for now. 

Parking: In the continuing larger discussion of downtown parking challenges amid the smaller discussion of how to develop the south end of the Civic Center block, the Silverton business community has come down in favor of more parking. The Chamber of Commerce submitted a letter to the council advocating a combination of parking and green space for the second half of the old Eugene Field School property. 

No timeline has been set for resolving the parking question. The use of the south end of the lot has been the subject of a series of community sessions, with some participants suggesting the entire parcel be limited to park use or perhaps splash pads. Others, like the Chamber, have asked for a more mixed approach. Still others have noted the possibility of using the city-owned property north of the new building as part of the parking/park discussion.

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