Why Form a City?
When area residents are asked how they feel about forming a city, they often make comments such as:
- I like things the way they are...
- I don't want the area to change...
- We don't need more government...
- Taxes will go up...
- We have all the services we need...
Just as often they make comments such as:
- I don't want light rail here...
- I don't like large lots being subdivided...
- There is too much density....
- The area is in decline and becoming blighted...
- The county doesn't enforce any codes...
Big changes are coming to the area that Friends of Local Control (FoLC) is studying for incorporation. Those who live in this area have a choice: Continue to let county government make all the decisions, or direct the future of the area through local control. Local control is obtained by becoming a city.
Consider the following:
The Portland to Milwaukie light rail line will terminate at Park Avenue in Milwaukie, along the border with unincorporated Clackamas County. The decision to bring light rail to Park Avenue was supported by the Clackamas Board of County Commissioners (BCC). Residents of the unincorporated area did not have a role in the approval process. The City of Milwaukie also approved the Park Avenue terminus. Those residents were engaged in a public process.
The BCC committed $25 million in funding to the light rail project. (The City of Milwaukie's commitment is $5 million). This is money the county does not have, and they have not identified where it will come from. It is widely thought they will raise the funds by imposing an Urban Renewal District (URD) on the unincorporated area. This could reduce funding for police, fire, schools and other services. If the county created a URD in the area, residents would not be able to override the decision.
Metro's Regional Transportation Plan shows light rail or rapid bus transit eventually going down McLoughlin Boulevard from Park Avenue to Oregon City. If this occurs, the City of Gladstone will have a seat at the decision-making table, as will the City of Oregon City. If the area between Milwaukie and Gladstone remains unincorporated, the BCC will make the decisions for this area.
The McLoughlin Area Plan (MAP) is a major community planning process that began in 2009. It includes all of the FoLC study area. In Phase1, Vision, Values and Guiding Principles were developed. Those outcomes will be applied to Phase 2, which is now underway. In that process, specific projects and programs for unincorporated North Clackamas County will be identified. Recommendations will be forwarded to the BCC for follow up. The BCC will then decide which projects to move forward with, and how to fund them.
By some estimates, over the next twenty years the population of the Portland area could grow by as much as one million. To understand how and where growth will occur, Metro engaged cities and counties in a process referred to as Local Aspirations. The BCC represented unincorporated Clackamas County. As a city, the FoLC study area would be a full participant in processes such this. It could also exercise more control over local growth and density.
Due to the on-going financial crisis facing Clackamas County, many services to the unincorporated area have been deeply cut or eliminated, including animal control, code enforcement and road maintenance. Cities benefit from Oregon shared revenues - fuel, alcohol and tobacco taxes. Fuel tax revenue would be dedicated to roads. The amount collected in the study area would exceed the amount the county currently spends in the area. Alcohol and tobacco tax revenue could go to the general fund to help pay for services such as animal control and code enforcement.
Oregon law delegates planning authority to cities and counties. In the unincorporated area, the BCC makes all decisions regarding planning, zoning and ordinances. There is no local control over these matters. Community Planning Organizations have little influence over the County Planning Department, and local residents have few options to change regulations or overturn county decisions.
So why become a city?
To obtain local control through self-governance.
Lack of local control has led to:
- poorly thought out developments
- construction of houses that are out of character with neighborhoods and squeezed onto sub-standard lots
- commercial business activity in residential neighborhoods
- yards that are overgrown, littered with trash, and filled with abandoned vehicles
- residential junkyards holding permanent garage sales
- sidewalk signs lining McLoughlin Boulevard
- a commercial district dominated by bars, taverns, strip clubs, deli casinos, tattoo parlors, and other adult-oriented businesses
- inadequate public safety
Big changes are coming. Should decisions that affect those changes continue to be made by the county, or should they be made locally?
Friends of Local Control think the choice is clear.