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Nyquist: City progress on quarry land ‘adequate’

 

August 8, 2017

COUNTY COMMISSIONER John Lindsey, center, left, makes a point during a meeting Monday with the Sweet Home City Council and Ray Towry, left.

Linn County Commission Chair Roger Nyquist told Sweet Home city officials Monday that the city is making adequate progress in planning the development of the 220-acre rock quarry formerly operated by Knife River (formerly Morse Bros.) so the land will not go to auction.

Commissioners Nyquist, Will Tucker and John Lindsey met with the Sweet Home City Council in a work session Monday morning, Aug. 7.

At their June 6 meeting, county commissioners set a 90-day time limit for the city to act on the property, which has been owned by Linn County since Dec. 30, 2010 as a result of foreclosure on more than 400 acres against Western States Land Reliance Trust, the previous owner, for nonpayment of property taxes.

The rock quarry property is located west of the north terminus of Clark Mill Road.

The county nearly three years ago offered to give the 220-acre parcel to the Sweet Home Economic Development Group, which has worked on the process of transferring ownership.

SHEDG approached the council last October with an offer to partner on the property, prior to new City Manager Ray Towry’s arrival Nov. 14.

The issue progressed at the Aug. 7 meeting from a discussion about the regional housing market.

Nyquist said a one-bedroom apartment in Albany is $1,200 to $1,500.

“Clearly, a question I have on my mind is what’s the role of government in helping to ease that,” Nyquist said.

When the recession started, the county waived building permit fees, he said.

“Should we come up with some sort of regional plan to incentivize multi-housing units or starter homes, because we’re part of the market conditions in that regard, right?” Nyquist asked. “They come to us for a building permit. How big is the check we’re asking them to write? How long does it take us to turn that permit and what are the conditions that come with that permit?”

He asked Mayor Greg Mahler how the commissioners could help Sweet Home.

“We’re seeing the same issue,” Mahler said. Houses sell quickly and rentals are starting to disappear.

Nyquist said that in the current market that he thought people would buy the property and build houses on it.

“It really is in that context that if you didn’t want it I would hate to maybe lose a market opportunity,” Nyquist said. “Today I would bet that would sell and that people would build on it.”

He added that he is comfortable with the city’s plan.

“It’s again the master strategy of your community,” he said.

City Manager Ray Towry said local leaders foresee the former Knife River property as an anchor point for the area around it as it develops. They want to build a regional facility which will hopefully attract people year-round.

“We don’t want something right next to it with a stinky smokestack,” Towry said. “So how can we work together to have this wonderful piece of property and then have some commercial mixed with some residential, then slowly as we move east maybe developing into some industrial-type use.”

Councilor Dave Trask said there was a speaker from Hayden Homes at the Association of Oregon Mayors’ conference which was held in Lebanon last week.

“He said, between the lines, he said we don’t go where it’s hard to work,” Trask said.

Mahler said he is in the middle of a personal project that is 16 weeks behind schedule, due to “local bureaucracy.

“Sorry, Ray,” he said to Towry. “It is a nightmare. We need to change that. It’s just too much.”

Nyquist said that to be fair to planners, “we all want something that at the end of the day looks good in our community, fits in our community and so there’s a balance there.”

He said he’s watched other communities try to remedy difficult processes.

“In essence, trying to nibble around the edges to improve things here and there,” Nyquist said.

Lebanon rewrote their development code, he said, crediting former Lebanon City Manger John Hitt.

“We’re glad and honored to serve the citizens of Sweet Home, but as council members, you guys set the tone and you decide what it looks like in the future,” Nyquist said.

“Think about your starting point and if that’s where you want to start with.”

 
 
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