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Coming up at Tuesday's Council Meeting (Nov 8th)

Senior Planner, Fred Evander, will present a second Heritage Preservation award. He presented one at that last meeting to Paul Reiter. This is a great way to thank residents for their hard work preserving homes in our community. 

Fred will also present a department report. The City Manager requires regular department reports be presented so that Council and residents know what's going on at the city. 

We're going to finalize the adoption of updated SDC methodology and fees for wastewater and transportation systems . We voted on this at the last meeting - we supported the option to increase SDCs at the full amount at the next Council meeting. For those interested in reading the pros and cons around this issue, here's a link to Public Works Director, Gerald Fishers' report.

There will be a public hearing regarding a proposal to annex 0.17 acres into the City of Independence. As part of the annexation, the land would be rezoned from the County Exclusive Farm Use Zone (EFU) to the City Mixed Residential Zone (MX). The annexed parcel would be included within the larger Brandy Meadows development. If you have an interest in this proposal, I suggest you attend the meeting and take advantage of the public comment period. 

Items up for Council consideration:

  • a Vertical Housing Zone. A Vertical Housing Zone (VHZ) offers a partial property tax exemption on building improvement value for developments that include upper floor housing with non-residential use on the ground floor, with the amount of tax exemption increasing based on the size and composition of the project. There is a calculation to determine the exact amount of the tax exemption, but it is approximately 20% per floor of residential above a ground floor non-residential use. The exemption is capped at 80% but City height restrictions make it unlikely that a building could reach that figure. The exemption period for an eligible project is 10 years. Rules governing all VHZ programs in the State of Oregon can be found in Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) 307.841 to 307.867. These include baseline project certification requirements, found in ORS 307.858. 

  • the adoption of the 2022-2027 Capital Improvement Plan. The City’s capital improvement plan has been documented within adopted master planning documents and annual budgets but not collectively stored within a single, easy to reference document. Staff has prepared the capital improvement plan for City Council approval. 

  • a contract award for engineering design services. This project is identified in the FY 2022-2023 Capital Improvement Plan as the C Street Clay Tile Sewer Replacement (Project G-5). Westech Engineering, Inc. is the City’s Engineer of Record and their role is to provide engineering services for the project design and railroad permitting.

  • a contract award for engineering design services. Background: This project is identified in the FY 2022-2023 Capital Improvement Plan as part of the Polk Well 4 improvements and conditions from Oregon Water Resources for the use of Polk Well 1. Westech Engineering, Inc. is the City’s Engineer of Record and their role is to provide engineering services for the microparticulate analysis (MPA) project. Cost for these services is $60,000 with the potential for an additional $18,000 if the requirements for Task 3 are triggered. 

And finally, City Manager West will make a presentation about "City Support for Oregon Mayors Association Request for Direct Funding to Cities" 

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Operation Green Light 

Mayor McArdle proclaimed  November 7, 2022 through November 13, 2022 a time to salute and honor the service and sacrifice of our military veterans, and that in observance Operation Green Light, City Hall shall be illuminated with green lights for the month of November, and that the community of Independence is encouraged to recognize the importance of honoring our military veterans by displaying a green light in a window of their place of business or residence.

Cairns-Weaver Award

Cairns-Weaver award presentation: Independence resident, Paul Reiter was awarded this amazing award. The Cairns-Weaver Award was created by the Independence Historic Preservation Commission to recognize excellence in historic preservation in the City of Independence. The award, named for Dan Weaver and Michael Cairns, key proponents of Historic Preservation in the community, was established in 2021, with the goal of having the awards be given on an annual basis to promote the preservation of the Independence Historic District.

Committees, Commissions and Boards

We made several appointments and reappointments to important resident bodies doing good work in the community. 

Library Advisory Board - We reappointed Diana Lindskog and appointed Nathan Christensen.
Museum Advisory Board - We appointed Destiny Spellman, Billy Ray Whisenant, and Jamie Clark.
Parks & Recreation Board - We appointed Erin McIntosh
Historic Preservation Commission - We appointed Liz Boisvert

Public Works

Gerald Fisher, the City's Public Works Director provided a department update. It was a verbal update of projects we're tracking. Residents can find links to all the City's Master Plans and other planning documents here. Mr. Fisher also made a presentation about Wastewater and Transportation System Development Charges (SDCs). You can read about the issues we discussed here.  Council voted, unanimously, for Option 1 – Full SDC’s at Adoption. Any other option would have forced resident rate payers to pick up the difference. 

Downtown Mural

At last week's Council meeting, we approved the installation of a mural on the building at 184 S. Main Street/River Gallery. The mural/wall graphic will be printed on a 6 by 22- foot alumalite panel and will be attached to the existing River Gallery over the covered transom windows (where the current sign exists). The panel would be based on a wood engraving of the Willamette River by Paul Gentry, a nationally known, local artist who recently passed away. I'm excited to see the installation!

I also made a suggestion to the city that we establish an Arts and Culture Commission to create a submission and review process to ensure an equitable way of identifying and presenting artistic submissions to Council but also to encourage more art throughout the city. 

Sports Park Feasibility Study

The City recently commissioned a study to determine the feasibility of upgrading the current Sports Park (behind Riverplace Apartments) into a baseball tournament ready facility.  While we await the results of the study, I've reached out to residents and asked their opinions. While some are interested in such an addition to the community and at least a couple downtown businesses are excited about increased revenues, others are concerned about a facility with only one purpose, tournament crowd noise and traffic, and maintenance support costs as well as the impact of chemicals used to keep baseball fields in top shape.

Housing Needs Analysis

Affordable housing is a huge concern in our City. Too often residents, particularly those who grow up here and others who graduate from Western Oregon University, move away because they can't find adequate housing here that they can afford -- either to purchase or rent. 

The City commissioned a Housing Needs Analysis to help us determine what's missing from our housing mix so we can plan for the future. But we need your help. Please take a few minutes to complete the Housing Needs Analysis Survey. The survey is available in both English and Spanish.


Measure 109 (Psilocybin)

Measure 109, passed by Oregon voters in 2020, legalized the medical use of psilocybin for medical purposes and required the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to produce administrative rules regulating the safe use of the substance. Despite Measure passage, concerns have arisen regarding the use, administration, and safety of the drug.

Council recently deliberated Measure 109 implementation. Our choices were to either endorse the state's plan to move forward with setting up licensed facilities to administer the drug or ban the use of the drug and establishment of licensed facilities here in Independence. I voted in favor of moving forward with OHA's plan to implement Measure 109. I did this for two reasons: (1) 55% of Independence voters voted in favor of Measure 109; and (2) studies have shown positive effects from the use of psilocybin. Two are linked below but I encourage residents, if they haven't already done so, to do their own research on the drug. 



To further inform Oregonians, OHA developed fact sheets (in English and Spanish) with additional information: Fact Sheet/Lista de datos.

Ultimately Council voted to send the issue back to the voters. I disagree with the "vote once/then vote again" process. I believe it is unnecessarily redundant. Further, this is not a drug which will be available for sale to the general public to use on their own. Psilocybin will only be available at licensed facilities where the drug will be administered while the patient is observed throughout the process for safety purposes. 

Eventually though, the vote became moot as Polk County voted to send the issue back to the voters as well.

Memorandum of Understanding - Establishing the Polk County Coordinated Homeless Response System

From the MOU: "The city previously provided a letter in support of Polk County's application for a grant to create a coordinated homeless response system, office, and advisory board. Polk County did, in fact, receive that grant [from the Oregon Legislature] and, in coordination with the cities of Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Willamina, and Falls City, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and the Mid—Valley Community Action Agency, has been meeting to coordinate the establishment of the coordinated homeless response system, office, and advisory board."

While there has been much discussion in our community about how to deal with our current homelessness issue and prevent future homelessness, it's important to have one resource available to all county municipalities for information and assistance. That is all this MOU will do. 

To address the misinformation in our community, the City created a Fact Sheet


Library Late Fees

At the March 22, 2022 Council meeting, City Council passed a resolution (4-2) to abolish late fines at our local library. [1]

Dissenting Councilors cited concerns about individual responsibility and impact to available resources as reasons for voting against the resolution.

No members of the public attended the Council meeting to object or support the initiative.

Here’s the issue: Library late fees disproportionally affect low-income families. They also adversely affect people with disabilities, working families, homebound seniors and seniors in general, and immigrant communities. The New York Public Library, as part of a nationwide trend, eliminated fines to “encourage reading among more New Yorkers and move toward a more equitable society”. [2]

The advocacy group, End Library Fines, states there is “no study or research which shows that library fines function as a mechanism to encourage timely return of materials. Instead, they serve as an economic barrier that impedes access to library materials and services for the financially disadvantaged people within our communities, particularly minors.” [3]

Andy Woolworth, the founder of End Library Fines, in a recent interview stated: ..."[because] there is absolutely no research to support the fact that library fines do what they think they do, which is to encourage people to return books...[I] found this to be getting in the way of our mission; which is to provide access to as many people as we possibly can so they can borrow books, use the computers, take our classes and attend our programs."  He went on to say that, “...the city of Philadelphia tried doubling their fines to make up revenues and what they found is that circulation went down and so people were borrowing less because they were afraid of fines." [4]

This is a social justice issue. Libraries, across the country, are abolishing fines because doing so helps those who really need library services.

In our own community, and I’ve witnessed this first hand while working at the Independence Public Library for two years, many of our low income families don’t have the means to buy their kids (or themselves) books. Their primary recourse is to borrow books from the library. And because they may not have internet service or traditional cable TV service, they borrow DVDs for education and entertainment as well. Fines preclude such residents from accessing books and materials and learning, growing as individuals, and becoming more knowledgeable and resourceful residents.

Disabled members of our community are also at a disadvantage because they may not have reliable transportation to get to the library in time to return their borrowed materials. The same goes for working families who are pulled in a dozen directions daily and are doing the best they can, and seniors, particularly those who are homebound. Our immigrant community, many of whom struggle economically, relies on the library for Spanish-language materials as well as important bilingual programming. These resources can help them settle into the community.

But this is all moot when fines prevent residents from even going to the library, let alone borrowing materials. Libraries are important community resources. They are places where residents - to include some from our homeless population - congregate and interact.  It’s also an information hub for so many in our community - the library provides tax preparation forms and manuals, seed packets for gardeners, reference materials, technology for audio books, games and educational programming, news about city events and services, and so much more.

It is incumbent of all of us to support our local library and encourage it to fulfill its mission. To do otherwise is to continue to disadvantage our most vulnerable residents because of misinformation or ill-informed perceptions. I commend the city’s Library Advisory Board and the Community Services Director for bringing this action to the City Council.

[1] City of Independence City Council meeting, 3/22/22, YouTube - City of Independence channel; discussion begins at 22:33.
[2] CNN Libraries are getting rid of late fees. Here’s why that’s a good thing, Scottie Andrew, October 7, 2021.
[3] End Library Fines;
[4] KJZZ broadcast, Steve Goldstein, published: June 13, 2019; updated June 13, 2019.


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