City of Newport getting into the land business
The Newport City Council has approved a process to purchase a two acre piece of ground north of the intersection of 35th and 101 to help make way for an intersection realignment and to help direct the development of the parcel. It’s currently the home of some industrial buildings that includes the old Flashbacks restaurant and a church that moved into an industrial building. The acquisition on behalf of the city’s Urban Renewal District is a precursor to local street realignments in the South Beach Urban Renewal Plan. City Community Development Director Derrick Tokos said it is not the goal of the city to own most of the parcel, but only that part dealing with streets. He said the vast majority of the land will eventually be sold to a private developer who will purchase it at a hopefully higher amount based on the improvements made by local street and sidewalk and circulation improvements – in short – the Urban Renewal District might actually make some money on the project.
The Urban Renewal District is expected to eventually purchase the property with $1.5 million in funds from an upcoming loan being taken out for this and other improvements. The loan will be paid off through the increased value of properties in the area which will increase property tax revenues to city coffers.
An added point…urban renewal is a totally separate entity from general city government. Although the city council runs urban renewal, those funds do not co-mingle with regular city funds. There is a firewall between them. Urban renewal funds are borrowed, then spent on sidewalks, streetscaping, upgraded sewer and water systems, street lighting and in some instances store front facades to make them more attractive. Then, as a result of the improvements, businesses are attracted to set up shop there and, as a result, property taxes and other city fees rise within the urban renewal area, thereby benefitting the whole town. It’s literally a process of priming the pump with borrowed money and when the urban renewal improvements are paid off, the higher valued property then starts pouring into city coffers for general services like police, fire, public works and other vital services. In many instances the enhanced values of certain urban renewal projects are great enough to where the improvement loans are paid off more quickly – thereby hastening the day when all the new tax revenue flows into the city treasury.
Medical Marijuana Dispensaries–
The council has made more progress in approving the opening of medical marijuana dispensaries in the near future. The police will have the right to review operations of the dispensaries and be in close contact with them on security issues. All employees will have criminal background checks, not just the owner(s). However a recommendation from Police Chief Mark Miranda that the dispensaries carry extensive (and likely very expensive) liability insurance was met with mixed reactions. Councilor Ralph Busby pointed out that the city has no such liability requirements on any other businesses operating in the city. A majority of the council asked the city’s contract law firm to review the proposed liability insurance requirement and determine whether the added burden could amount to discrimination.
The council asked that the legal review and further discussions on the matter be brought back before the council on July 21st.
Going from Newport Municipal Airport to Newport Regional Airport?
City Councilor Private pilot Ralph Busby suggested to his fellow councilors Monday night that in order to transform the Newport Airport into a more effective economic engine it needs more support from the surrounding communities that it’s already serving – like Fed Ex delivers packages to cities and communities throughout the region. The council decided to ask the airport’s advisory committee to begin thinking in terms of involving other agencies like cities and the county commission to lend a hand at supporting and growing the airport. Right now the taxpayers of Newport are keeping the place open even though running about $350,000 a year in red ink.
The committee was also asked to examine the kind of governance might best suit the airport – would it be an airport district, or part of the Port of Newport, or some other entity that could broaden the tax base to reflect the actual service area of the airport and to grow it into an economic engine of its own. Light manufacturing likes to be on or around airports because they deliver what they produce mainly by air, depending on what they’re making. As oceanographic research increases under the growing pressures of climate change, there will be a greater need for the scientific community to hold more meetings and collaborate more research through the Hatfield Marine Science Center and NOAA expeditions, participants flying in and out of Newport on charter commuter aircraft and larger private aircraft. Tourism aviation – travelers who fly their own aircraft and families that take air shuttles to Newport for the new OMSI Discovery Center will need accommodations and facilities at the airport.
And not to be a dreary puppy, if the coast gets hit with “the big one” as geologists predict we will, we’ll need a beefier airport to handle rescue and supply operations to meet the needs of the region – not just Newport.
So, we’ll see what thoughts the Airport Advisory Committee comes up with at the next City Council meeting on the 21st of July.
Back in the hunt for a new City Attorney
With the recent resignation of former City Attorney Rob Connell, the long and winding saga of trying to find the right level of legal services for the city is back in the council’s lap. Over the past couple of years the council has tried to make having an out of town legal firm get the job done but the council is “getting it” that it’s not working for them. For one thing, it’s very expensive. And for another, there is no legal expertise in the room when the council often needs it most – during city council meetings.
So the council decided that to leave no legal stone unturned, it ordered Clerk Recorder Peggy Hawker to advertise throughout the region that Newport is again looking for legal services – either full time on staff and/or contract legal help. With the council’s rising appetite for a city attorney to guide the council during council and other meetings, a full time ‘on staff’ city attorney is attractive. But with complicated legal areas like employee hiring and firing, employee working conditions, complicated construction projects, and navigating Oregon’s infamous land use law, the council left the door open for the city attorney to contract out for some of those more technical services.
New City Finance Director – Mike Murzynsky
While all that’s going on with the City Attorney’s position, interim City Finance Director Bob Gazewood was most pleased to introduce to the council the town’s new permanent Finance Director. He’s Mike Murzynsky, a veteran of government accounting services. He’s currently wrapping up his job as senior accountant for the city of Albany and worked for some time for the city of Eugene. He’s a graduate of San Francisco State University. Murzynsky will be trying to more equitably distribute the workload among city finance department staff.