Lincoln City: Sewer/Water rate hikes, demand for civility, what to do about Villages at Cascade Head
Sewer and Water rates going up July 1st
Lincoln City City Councilors Monday night raised water and sewer rates for all customers, both inside the city and outside effective July 1st.. Water rates will rise 5%; sewer rates will go up 4%. The increases are based on maintenance, supplies and paying forward the cost of eventual replacement since pipes in Oregon’s soggy ground certainly don’t last forever. Just ask Newport and Toledo. City Manager David Hawker said part of the 5% water increase contains slightly higher charges for those who use a lot of water. He says by making it a bit pricier to use large quantities of water, there will be pressure put on customers to use less, and thereby stretch the city’s water supply even farther into the future.
Operation Backpack gets a break
Saying they didn’t want to punish low income kids due to the mistakes made by a few adults, the council awarded the “Operation Backpack” program $2,250 for their food-for-kids program. Councilors learned that for some reason Operation Backpack’s application for a city-sponsored “community service” grant was turned in weeks late; even after the distribution of funds was made. City Councilor Gary Ellingson said he didn’t want to throw a monkey wrench into the expectations by the other groups that were awarded grants, but he also didn’t want low-income kids to suffer due the mistakes of a few adults. The council voted unanimously to take five percent away from each of the successful grantees in order to give Operation Backpack something for the kids.
Enforced civility at city buildings, parks and other facilities
The council also gave its blessing to a move that would help better enforce basic civility in all city parks and buildings. City Manager David Hawker told the council that the city has been having problem in places like city hall and in the library from a few folks who not only get angry about things, they get angry at high volume. Sometimes they even cause visitors to the library to get up out of their chairs and leave the building. City Hall has also had its share of boisterous complainers at various city department windows.
City Attorney Joan Kelsey said it’s important to have rules and regulations about proper order clearly laid out in the law as well as provisions provided for those removed or ticketed to have a fair and open process for appeal.
Roads End Water District asks for a little respect
A member of the Roads End Water District Board read a letter to the council again requesting that the city council and her board of directors negotiate the purchase of city water for the Roads End area. She said the district is a legal entity of government and that it should be taken seriously, along with the request that Lincoln City sell them water so they can, in turn, distribute it to Roads End residents. Her request was met with silence. The city is in the process of receiving permission from a large number of Roads End residents that they be annexed into the city, after which their water and sewer bills would be cut roughly in half. But also their property taxes would rise to pay for city services they’ve enjoyed at city taxpayers’ expense for many years, according to city officials. Those officials add that the Roads End area lies within the city’s Urban Growth Boundary and, by state law, Roads End is expected to eventually annex into the city. A group of Roads End residents, highly agitated at the mere mention of cityhood, has vowed to do “whatever is necessary” to stop the annexation. City officials are already budgeting for a court fight.
The Villages at Cascade Head project is being transformed
And city councilors looked across, eye to eye, with a Las Vegas venture capitalist who boldly outlined what he is and is not willing to do in order the salvage a long festering problem for the city; the largely unbuilt “The Villages at Cascade Head.” The Villages, located off North 101, adjacent and uphill from the Chinook Winds Golf Course, first appeared before the council some ten years ago when housing was selling, the economy was picking up steam and everyone seemed delighted that an environmentally protected green community was destined for the town’s north end. And things got moving — for a while.
But then came the Wall Street crash and the ensuing recession and suddenly it appeared that very few of the project’s 1,829 homes, scattered among 10 villages, would ever be built. Everything said last night indicated that it is even more doubtful today. A&B Ventures Scott Bleazzard of Las Vegas, the third part owner of the property, who acquired it through the Federal Deposit Insurers Corporation, said everything’s changed. He told the council that the original plans for The Villages will have to be completely scrapped to make way for individual single-family detached homes – big luxury homes, which is what is becoming more in demand.
Mayor Dick Anderson and City Manager David Hawker both said that they understood what Bleazzard was saying and that they agree with his assessment. But they added that the city is exposed to some big dollar costs due to the streets, storm drains, sidewalks, sewer and water facilities that were invested in connection with the project. Bleazzard minced no words in admonishing the council that the city is to blame for approving the extension of city services so deeply into the project area long before enough homes sites were developed in order to pay for them. Bleazzard said he seriously doubts that the original plan for The Villages will ever be feasible due to the country’s economic condition. In a moment of clear intent he told the council, “You bet I have deep pockets, but I’m not going to empty them here. However I am willing to work with the city to re-examine options; I believe we can make “some” project work, but with single family homes over time.” He revealed that he is in very serious negotiations with a buyer for one of the villages, Fernwood. He said they want to build possibly 60-80 homes. But he added, there are conditions that have to be met before the sale can go through. And it centers around sewer services.
Several city councilors asked Bleazzard if he was certain that there is, in fact, a way out of the current quagmire. Bleazzard said yes, as long as the council is flexible. A&B Venture and the other owners (who bought the project out of its second bankruptcy) agreed to work with the city to develop a new plan for the property that will hopefully someday produce a quality residential area for the city.
The issue will be brought back to the city council for review and further action on September 24th to give both sides plenty of time to think things over and come up with a workable way forward.