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Land use: Council hears from experts as comprehensive plan project looms

By James Day

Housing continues to be a major concern statewide, with the Legislature passing another major housing bill in its recently completed short session.

The City of Silverton decided to bone up on housing and land use issues in a March 18 joint session involving city staff, the City Council and the Planning Commission.

The special meeting heard from Ashleigh Dougill of Beery Elsner and Hammond, the city’s legal representatives, as well as two representatives of the State Department of Land and Conservation Development.

The latest housing bill, Senate Bill 1537, provides $376 million in new spending, offers grants and interest-free loans to help develop affordable housing, forms a policy panel to review logjams and problems for developers and allows cities of 10,000 or more to engage in one-time expansions of their urban growth boundary in return for guaranteeing that 30% of the housing built on the property will be affordable.

The legislation does not kick in until 2025, with Silverton looking at updating its comprehensive plan, a 12- to 18-month process that will provide a blueprint for growth and development in town. Having an updated comprehensive plan can be critical for getting grants to assist with housing issues.

No word was available on when the plan process will start. Such code work tends to involve multiple public outreach sessions, and City Manager Cory Misley said he thought the city likely will hire a consultant to assist with the work.

In other highlights from the three-hour meeting at The Oregon Garden education center:

• The council signed a 90-day extension of its lease on the Silverton Community Center building with the Oregon Military Department. The council uses the building for its meetings, pending the completion of the new City Hall. Others still using the building include Silverton Area Community Aid, the Women, Infants and Children program and Jazzercise. The Silver Falls YMCA has pulled out all of its programming from the building.

• The council unanimously approved, as part of its consent agenda, appropriations of $378,426 from the sewer and water funds to the fund that is paying for the reconstruction of Second Street and its sidewalk and utility improvements. The appropriation does not increase the budget for the project. The money was intended to be forwarded to the Second Street project all along but an audit uncovered the mistake. The project, which runs from near Lincoln Street in the north to the Home Place restaurant, added sidewalks on the east side of Second and curbs on the west as well as adding sewer pipes and filling in the old storm water ditches.

• Pickleball update: Councilors unanimously voted to apply for a $750,000 state parks and recreation grant to assist with plans for pickleball courts next to the dog park and the Silverton Senior Center. The city hopes to build six courts in two phases, three in a first phase and three more in a second phase that also would feature parking improvements, restrooms, picnic tables and work on the dog park. The city would be required to match $500,000 of the grant, which it would do using parks system development charge funds. No word was available when the city will know if its grant application has been accepted or when work on the project will begin.

• Councilors also unanimously approved spending up to $397,347 on a contract for engineering, design and construction administration on the pickleball project and the planned trails at Pettit Lake.

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