By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

Suited for a makeover

Marcus Larson / News-Register
Investing in the infrastructure of Alpine Avenue, shown here, and other areas of downtown is believed to eventually generate several million dollars for the City of McMinnville. Planners of McMinnville s Northwest Gateway District seek to redevelop it as a  festival street.

Pursuing what the city’s consultant calls a medium-growth scenario for its proposed urban renewal district would require the city tospend some money up front for infrastructure improvements, primarily in the area along Lafayette and Alpine avenues in the Northeast Gateway District.

However, consultant Elaine Howard predicted that investment would boost development enough to bring several million dollars more into city coffers over the expected 25-year lifespan of the district.

The somewhat truncated council, meeting without Mayor Rick Olson, Council President Kellie Menke or City Manager Kent Taylor, all of whom were ill, accepted that option.

A low-growth scenario would more-or-less forego development in the Northeast Gateway District.

Under that plan, Howard predicted the city would have about $10 million to spend on renewal projects and programs over the life of the district. Using the medium-growth scenario, she forecast the city would be able to spend up to $30 million.

An urban renewal designation means that any tax increases in the designated area go to the renewal district, rather than to the usual recipients, for the 20 to 30 years the district is in effect. It’s intended to raise property values, so when the district is ended, all tax recipients benefit.

Anticipating the council’s decision to proceed with the medium-growth option, the city’s planning department submitted a memo to the council notifying it of the department’s intention to begin working on amending zoning and drafting development and design standards for the target area.

The council also approved a suggested boundary for the district, which encompasses 175 acres altogether. It runs from Alder Street to Logan, and from First along a stair-step border that extends in some areas to Fifth, in others to Eighth and in the northwest corner, between the railroad tracks and Lafayette Avenue, all the way to 13th.

Those decisions will enable Howard to begin the work of financial modeling, and to advise the city on which projects are likely to be most successful in encouraging development and thus boosting property values.

In other business, the council:

n Awarded a contract to to low-bidder Kizer Excavation of McMinnville, for $76,620, to replace a failing clay sewer pipe that serves and runs partly under the Schilling building downtown. The city plans to have Kizer run a new pipe through the parking lot and abandon the failing line.

City Engineer Mike Bisset said that the work may be delayed until after the holidays, to avoid interfering with holiday commerce at Cornerstone, Geraldi’s, La Rambla and other affected businesses. Crews also will be instructed to keep at least part of the parking lot open at all times, he said.

n Approved a change in the health insurance plan for the firefighters’s union that will increase members’ deductible to $1,500, but establish a Voluntary Employees’ Beneficiary Association, known as a VEBA, to help employees with some of their out-of-pocket costs. The plan is being funded by the city.

City Attorney Candace Haines told the council it was mutually beneficial for the city and employees.

n Heard a report from Information Systems Manager Murray Paolo on his department’s investigations into switching to a paperless system for distribution of council agenda material. It’s a more complicated process than it appears at first blush, Paolo said, but he expects to bring the council a proposal within six months.

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