The Dalles City Councilor Linda Miller supported the protest by Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company about the high cost of local development fees by voting Monday against the $175,546 assessment levied on the business for roadwork.
Miller said Coca Cola, which had a distributing center in The Dalles, has left town, as has Budweiser and Mt. Hood Brewing Company. She said if Pepsi also decides to take its operations to a more “business friendly” location, then the local economy will be adversely affected.
No one from Pepsi attended the Sept. 9 public hearing and Councilors Dan Spatz, Tim McGlothlin, Carolyn Wood and Bill Dick voted in favor of the assessment and continuation of roadwork.
Nolan Young, city manager, and Dave Anderson, public works director, will prepare an ordinance outlining what is entailed in phase two of the project that incorporates 28.56 acres within the industrial park on the northern edge of town. The ordinance will be considered for adoption at the Sept. 23 council meeting.
“The assessment we are charging is a lot of money, I don’t care who you are,” Miller said in a follow-up interview after the Sept. 9 meeting. “When one of these companies leaves town, we lose jobs and we lose money from the services provided to the company and its employees.”
Pepsi views its share of the cost for street improvements as excessive out of the belief there is not a need for curbs and sidewalks next to its property at 1520 West First Street.
“Upon review of the tasks undertaken (in first phase of project), it would appear that the improvements completed were beyond those necessary in light of the use of the property within the vicinities of the repairs,” wrote Bryan Myer, an attorney for the company, in an Aug. 14 letter of objection.
“This is primarily an industrial area and is not utilized by pedestrian traffic. The improvements that were made bring this area more in conformity for uses expected in highly traveled vehicle and pedestrian areas.”
Although Pepsi signed a “waiver of remonstrance” in 2001, an agreement not to protest formation of a local improvement district, Myer said the company was not given a description of the extent of the improvements that would be made. He said Pepsi was also not given an estimate of the costs that would be involved in that work.
In a memo submitted to the council to refute Myers’ claims, Dave Anderson, city public works director, said the waiver specified the types of improvements that would take place in the future.
In addition, he said city staff held an informational meeting in 2008 for property owners that detailed the plans for street work and how costs would be allocated. Following objections raised by a representative from Pepsi about the costs at that time, Anderson said it was decided to break the LID into two phases, the first of which was completed in 2010 and the second, which is soon to get under way. The roadwork in front of Pepsi’s property at 1520 West First Street is to be done as part of the second phase.
Anderson said no one from Pepsi was present at another informational meeting on the project held Sept. 5, 2012. He said city staff met with representatives from the company a couple of weeks later to review the plans. He said no one from the company was present to testify at a public hearing in November 2012 regarding the proposed LID.
“The record indicates that Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company had knowledge of the extent of work to be completed when they signed the waiver agreement and the associated costs when they had an opportunity during informational meetings and public hearings to provide input into the project design,” wrote Anderson in his memo dated Aug. 26.
In 2012, Anderson urged the council to form the LID so construction could take place in 2013, while 10 waivers signed by owners of properties as a condition of development were still in place. He said these agreements expired in 2014 and, because the cost of upgrades was rising each year, it would be more expensive to make the improvements in the future, which made it less likely that landowners would agree to the costs involved.
The city’s policy has been to include sidewalks on at least one side of streets and curbs when improvements are made. This practice has been a point of contention with the county when urban fringe areas are annexed into the city. The county maintains roads in outlying areas. Curbs, sidewalks and storm water drains are not installed due to the cost involved. The city has refused to accept ownership of county roads because these upgrades are not in place.
Landowners on the eastern edge of town have also protested paying for sidewalks and curbs due to the expense involved. The city was charging these property holders in that area who wanted to carve out an additional lot an assessment that ranged from $50,000 to more than $150,000 due, in part, due to plans for future upgrades. A long-running dispute over that practice led landowners to seek help at the legislative level in 2013 and a bill sponsored by Rep. John Huffman, R-The Dalles, was approved and signed into law that eliminated the high fees.