By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

Council approves local room tax

The McMinnville City Council unanimously approved an 8 percent room tax Tuesday, after a short hearing that included one restaurateur testifying in favor and one letter from a local bed and breakfast operator raising questions.

Councilors expressed enthusiasm for the tax, which is expected to raise thousands of dollars a year for tourism promotion and city needs. It will be levied in addition to the 1 percent lodging fee operators are required to collect for the state.

State law mandates that 70 percent of the proceeds be allocated to tourism projects and programs. The remaining 30 percent can be spent at the city’s discretion.

Councilors have already proposed a variety of ideas for both portions.

However, the new ordinance requires appointment of a seven- to nine-member advisory committee to solicit proposals and develop recommendations for the dedicated tourism portion. It requires inclusion of tourism industry representatives, as well as a council liaison.

McMinnville Downtown Association Manager Cassie Sollars told the council that appointing some local lodging proprietors would help the industry take ownership and support the program.

In other business, the council:

n Held a hearing on the city budget, at which one person spoke. Local activist Mark Davis told the council he had recently attended a budget committee meeting for the first time and was impressed by the proceedings.

He said that, while he understands the city’s need to cut funds where possible, he was disappointed by the inadequate funding for local street maintenance, noting that delaying maintenance can lead to much higher future costs. Davis said he also was disappointed by the decision to eliminate one of the city’s remaining three planning positions.

Given the low volume of building, Davis said, the cut makes financial sense. But he said livability and quality of the city stem partly from a strong planning department.

The council, not slated to vote on the budget until its June 25 meeting, also held a hearing on the proposed uses of state revenue sharing. However, it drew no testimony.

In other action, the council:

n Overturned a planning commission decision forbidding Grandhaven Heights homeowners from felling large fir trees on their property.

n Confirmed an earlier decision to grant the downtown economic improvement district a three-year extension with an increased assessment. The vote was 5-1, with Kevin Jeffries sounding the lone dissent.

n Voted to authorize Mayor Rick Olson to sign a loan agreement with the state Transportation Infrastructure Bank for the city’s commitment to the Newberg-Dundee bypass. The council was told the rate would be 2.26 percent instead of 2.35, saving the city nearly $2,000 a year in interest.

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