2018 State of the City

Most of the State of the City addresses I have given over the years have included discussion of how we were coming with our efforts to add industrial land to Woodburn’s Urban Growth Boundary. We just annexed the 105 acre parcel at the heart of the years of controversy we endured, and yes, I will have something to say about that. But, ironically, this year’s big story is what is going on with residential development. And, by the way, almost all of it is going on inside Woodburn’s ORIGINAL Urban Growth Boundary, not the recently expanded one.

We currently have 1,500-plus residential units at some stage of development (application to construction)!

We have approximately 350 apartments. Master Development is building about 300 market-rate units behind the Woodburn Premium Outlets. Farmworker Housing is developing 44 units of workforce housing, and Catholic Charities is developing 16 units of low income housing with another unit for an onsite manager.

We have 1,100-plus detached homes, rowhouses, condominiums (Smith, Boones Crossing, Tukwila). Phase 3 of Boones Crossing is actively under construction. Its remaining phases, the Hazel Smith property, and the last phase of Tukwila are in various stages of application or approval.

So what’s going on with Woodburn?

The biggest story is that we’ve been discovered. Buildable land is increasingly expensive and hard to find in the Portland Metro area, and Portland is having increasing livability and affordability issues. Some Portland-area developers discovered our inventory of lots as the economy started to recover, built and sold successfully, and ran us out of vacant lots! The new subdivisions that are in process are a sign of the improving economy and the fact that we are a good place to live. We are accessible, located near major employment centers, and particularly well-sited for households with one Woodburn employee and one commuter, or for households splitting the difference between Metro and points south. In a sense, we’re the Un-Portland: Relatively affordable, lower density, diverse, attractive, fresh air, good schools and still small enough to be neighborly.

Do I have concerns about the effects of this growth? Well, of course. My biggest concern is for school capacity, and there will be some issues with traffic. But overall, we can handle this. We have Master Plans for parks, transportation and utilities, which are periodically updated. We have system development charges for parks, transportation and utilities. We have a highly qualified team of professionals working for us. We are doing our best to adhere to our standards and find solutions for issues while applicants are at the planning and engineering stage — not when homes are under construction and a problem erupts.

My family has lived in Woodburn since 1978. We came here during one of Woodburn’s growth spurts and have experienced three or four additional ones in our time here. Very occasionally, newcomers have had challenges fitting in. But by and large, these periods of growth have helped pay for sidewalk, park and program expansions, helped bring us new businesses that would not be able to operate successfully in a smaller town, and brought some wonderful people to our community.

Non-residential development is not necessarily the BIG story, but it is happening too:

  • Salem Health is establishing a presence with an urgent care center under construction by the interchange.
  • 103 acres of industrial lands were annexed into the City of Woodburn at the beginning of the year.
  • Specht Development has exercised its purchase option and is actively marketing 60 of them.

The Economic Development Department is fielding inquiries about development and redevelopment possibilities on a daily basis. They are also working with existing employers to help meet facility needs and are also working with the Oregon Main Street program. The Urban Renewal Agency is continuing to help leverage private investment in downtown, and the level of interest in downtown from investors is continuing to increase.

We have some additional projects that involve upgrades rather than new development that people frequently ask about:

  • First Street: Design concepts will go out for public comment this spring and summer, work that needs to be done in advance of the main project will take place in fall and winter, construction in summer 2019.
  • Hardcastle Railroad Crossing: Design underway, actual construction schedule dependent on responsiveness of railroad and $100,000 of the project was funded by ODOT rail!
  • West Hayes: Underground facility repairs are complete. Resurfacing is being delayed as we work through street dedication and other requirements for Nellie Muir School additions and Smith property development. Ultimate design of street and connection at Settlemier will depend partly on how these are handled. Estimated construction some time in summer 2019.

With the improved economy, the thousands of new residents likely to arrive in the next few years, and growing community interest, the Community Center is now a front burner project again. Our plans involve expanding the existing Aquatic Center to add gym, classroom and meeting space. We received $1 million toward construction at the end of the 2017 legislative session. The funding source requires that we use this for capital expenditures. We’ve acquired the yellow house on Oak Street by the Aquatic Center, and are looking at whether we need to acquire any more land. We will then have plans drawn at the detail level necessary to estimate costs accurately. We want to work with existing community partners and others to fund as much of the project as possible from non-tax sources. When and if a bond becomes part of the package, we also want to give taxpayers complete and honest information about what they are paying for and what they are getting.

If there is anything else to take note of, it is how much is going on in so many areas of City government, as well as the community at large. Just a very few examples:

  • Chief Jim Ferraris is an increasingly visible and respected advocate for how community policing should be done and why it matters. We love the positive press, and we love how it attracts new police officers who have existing connections to our community and want to practice police work in this way.
  • We modified our mural ordinance and committee to extend to other forms of art, and allocated $100,000 to get the ball rolling on public art. In the coming months, we may see our historic water tower become a work of art, see a sculpture in the Downtown Plaza, or see the Plaza fountain enhanced by art tiles.
  • The Fiesta Mexicana is now a Heritage Event (on a par with the Rose Festival and Pendleton Roundup!) and will continue to expand its offerings and community outreach this year.
  • The Community Cleanup had its largest pool of volunteers ever a couple of weeks ago, just one illustration of what a caring, giving community we share.

In conclusion, this is what is going on at one snapshot in time in the wonderful city that I’ve proud to serve and happy to live in for many years. Mercifully, the part of the government that most of us encounter in our day to day lives is local government. As a local government organization, the City of Woodburn is a first rate organization. As a community, the City of Woodburn is second to none.

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