A citizen win!
Last night the City Council voted unanimously to reconsider their decision to have the public pay for two extensions to Lone Oak Road in south Salem, rather than the developers who really should be footing the bill.
The impetus for the reconsideration was a letter from the South Gateway Neighborhood Association. Here's a screenshot of how it starts out.
Download SGNA - Reconsideration of Lone Oak Reimbursement District
There will be another public hearing on a Lone Oak Road Reimbursement District at the council's March 26 meeting, if I recall the date correctly.
This is a complex subject. I'm going to describe it as clearly as possible in this post. If you want more detail, check out my previous blog posts about Lone Oak Road:
City Council poised to make public pay for improvements, not Larry Tokarski
Why did Larry Tokarski start, then stop, construction of Lone Oak Road?
Larry Tokarski leaves the public with a $7.5 million development bill
Neighborhood association asks City Council to reconsider Lone Oak Road decision
The overarching issue here is who should pay for two extensions of Lone Oak Road needed in the Creekside area: the general public, or developers planning to build subdivisions on currently undeveloped land?
As shown above in a slide from a City of Salem presentation about the Reimbursement District, which would impose a fee on lots divided or developed in areas near Creekside to reimburse developers who construct Lone Oak Road, there are two unbuilt sections of the road shown in yellow.
The north section runs through a new phase of Larry Tokarski's Creekside development (outlined in green; existing phases are outlined in red). So why isn't Tokarski being required to pay for that part of Lone Oak Road?
This is a key question that City officials need to explicitly address in a staff report before next month's "re-do" public hearing on the Lone Oak Road Reimbursement District. There's abundant evidence that Tokarski was supposed to build the north extension of the road, and indeed started to do so in 2007, but was let off the hook for City of Salem staff.
A 2016 LUBA (Land Use Board of Appeals) decision summarizes some of the history of this. Above is a screenshot of part of the decision. I've circled a pertinent part in red. The applicant is Larry Tokarski and his development company.
Download LUBA ruling
So City officials allowed development to proceed at Creekside even though Tokarski reneged on his promise to build the north portion of Lone Oak Road and a bridge over Jory Creek. The LUBA decision negated a later requirement that Tokarski build the road to serve a small 4-lot Creekside subdivision, offering up some narrow legal justifications.
But it's an open question whether the City can still require Tokarski to build the north section of Lone Oak Road. A footnote in the LUBA decision (see above) points to this possibility of him paying for at least part of it. Strangely, City staff haven't addressed this in staff reports dealing with the Lone Oak Road Reimbursement District.
Seemingly it's just been assumed that a rich developer who has been required numerous times to build that portion of Lone Oak Road can't be made to do so, so the public has to pick up his road construction bill.
The South Gateway Neighborhood Association proposal makes sense: defer action on a reimbursement district until a legal case is settled and it is known whether Tokarski is able to convert the Creekside Golf Course into a large subdivision. If that happens, for sure Tokarski then could be required to build the north extension of Lone Oak Road, and it could run through flat land on what is now the golf course.
Also, City staff have said that there won't be enough money raised by the reimbursement district to pay for the north extension of Lone Oak Road, so this will have to be made part of a future streets and bridges bond. Which raises the question: why go to the trouble of forming a reimbursement district if it won't raise enough money to build Lone Oak Road?
Bottom line regarding the north portion of Lone Oak Road: either Tokarski can be made to pay for the road that he promised to build, or building the road can be made a condition for developing a subdivision on the golf course property, should he be allowed to do this. Either way, the public doesn't have to pay Tokarski's bill.
The unbuilt south portion of Lone Oak Road is easier to figure out: make the developers of the two subdivisions outlined in purple and orange pay for it.
Last night Mark Shipman, an attorney representing the 10 acre, 38-lot "purple" subdivision, explained that his clients wanted the City of Salem to help them find a way to pay for the cost of building the south portion of Lone Oak Road. The reimbursement district was what came out of this.
Wow. After letting Larry Tokarski off the hook for $7.5 million in Lone Oak Road improvements, City officials were pleased to do the same for the developers who should be paying for the unbuilt south section of Lone Oak Road.
There's no discernible reason why the developers of the two subdivisions shouldn't be paying for the extension of Lone Oak Road south to Rees Hill Road. If the 20 acre development is built to the same density as the 10 acre development, 114 lots will be developed (38 + 76).
This sure seems like enough to justify making the two developers pay for the south extension of Lone Oak Road, since the map above shows the road going immediately adjacent to the 10-acre development and through the west side of the 20-acre development.
I've seen no explanation why a reimbursement district was justified to pay back the developer(s) for the cost of building the Lone Oak Road extension to Rees Hill Road. Seemingly it just was assumed that if a developer complains about the cost of constructing needed infrastructure, the public should foot the bill instead.
Attorney Shipman said that his clients are ready to build the south portion of Lone Oak Road. Great. They should build it. And also pay for it on their own. Then they can be partially reimbursed by the developer of the 20 acre property outlined in orange above, whose subdivision application is more recent.
City officials have been bending over backwards to please developers who don't want to pay for roads needed to serve their developments. This needs to change. Our "public servants" need to start living up to their name and begin putting the interests of the general public above the wants of developers.