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City rescinds nonremonstrance waiver

Sean and Kindra Manning told city officials Monday that two buyers had walked away from a deal for their East Ninth Street home after learning about the waiver of remonstrance agreements attached to the property.

The price for the residence then had to be lowered by $25,000 to attract a buyer who was willing to possibly pay $60,000-80,000 for street improvements in the future.

That message was delivered by the couple at the Oct. 28 meeting of The Dalles City Council.

Kindra told the elected body that a previous owner who had wanted to partition the land had signed the first waiver in 1994. By doing so, he had agreed not to protest formation of a local improvement district to cover the cost of future street and utility improvements.

When a second house was built on the land in 1996, another waiver had been signed regarding potential installation of a larger water main.

“I never signed either of these agreements,” said Manning.

Only in the past few years has the city been attaching the agreement to the property in connection with the nonremonstrance agreements so it can be discovered through title search.

She said it wasn’t until the property was listed with a real estate agent that she and Sean learned the agreements essentially amounted to a lien on the title.

“The costs that are being quoted to prospective buyers by the city are approximately 40 percent of the value of our home,” said Manning. “I can’t imagine how gifting up to 40 percent of our home’s value for a street and a larger waterline will greatly improve our lives.”

She said Sean’s job transfer to Martinez, Calif., in April 2013 had necessitated a sale of their property. In order for the family to reconnect, she said it had been necessary to take the lower offer for the house after the first two deals fell through. She said the situation felt like being “held hostage” and had “tainted’ the family’s experience of living in The Dalles.

Manning said the city needs to do away with the waivers, which she described as an “obsolete tool” to meet “ideals” for building roads in residential areas.

“It is time for growth and forward progress in The Dalles and it is time to rid our city of ordinances and policies that hold back the opportunities for growth and prosperity,” she said.

The council voted to rescind the waivers on the Manning property after hearing Kindra’s appeal.

They were told by Dick Gassman, director of the Community Development and Planning Department, that the issue of whether waivers should continue to be required or eliminated would be addressed during an upcoming review of the land-use code by the planning commission.

“I think there is an injustice that has happened and it really needs to be corrected tonight,” said Councilor Tim McGlothlin, who made the motion to void the Mannings’ waivers, which was seconded by Councilor Linda Miller and unanimously approved.

Councilor Bill Dick said he wondered how many similar situations existed within the city.

“This just seems weird to me,” he said.

McGlothlin said the planning commission needed to perform its review of the city’s land-use ordinance in as timely a manner as possible.

That work will begin in November and could take several months, Gassman said. It is important, said McGlothlin, to avoid another seven-year cycle of disputes that had driven citizens on the east side of town to seek a legislative solution to the issue of minor lot partitions in the spring of 2013.

Councilor Carolyn Wood said the commission needed to keep in mind that street improvements had to be paid for somehow and the standard practice had been to tie those upgrades to development.

“This is huge, the planning commission is going to undertake a slow, thoughtful process,” said Mayor Steve Lawrence.

Waivers were removed with the creation of one to three new lots on a residential property with the enactment of House Bill 3479 in July. Dave Hunnicutt, author of the new law that applies only to The Dalles, said the mandated agreements strip away a landowner’s right to oppose a district that might be formed decades later at much higher cost.

The city’s policy has been to require the waivers when land-use changes occur because they create financial certainty that street improvements will be made to accommodate population growth and increased traffic. These agreements are still in place for properties zoned commercial and industrial and the planning commission will be considering whether to continue that practice.

Also to be discussed in the land-use review is the council’s request that staffers and the commission make the new rules for residential lots under HB 3479 also applicable to properties in the urban fringe area that will one day be annexed.

These landowners still have to pay the high fees — $80,000 in one instance — for a minor lot partition that were eliminated by HB 3479 for residents within the city limits.

They also have to sign the waivers to proceed with creation of a new lot.

Hunnicutt told residents at a July town hall meeting in The Dalles that it had been assumed by state officials that parcels within the urban growth area would also be subject to the law. He said these properties are under county jurisdiction but managed by the city because they will one day be annexed. Gassman told the planning commission in an earlier meeting that changes to the law in the urban growth area require county approval, which will be sought now that the city has approved the changes related to HB3479.

Gassman said revisions to the land use code also have to include a discussion about how infrastructure improvements will be paid for as growth occurs.

Lawrence and Councilor Linda Miller want the future discussion broadened to include all of the city’s development fees and whether the costs are impeding economic development.

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