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City changes urban renewal

It’s a case of “back to the future” for the The Dalles’ Urban Renewal Agency Board.

On Monday evening, The Dalles City Council voted 4-0 to approve an ordinance that revises the structure of the agency, creating one board where there were two previously.

The idea to reconfigure the urban renewal agency comes in the wake of a joint work session of the two boards that have been guiding urban renewal, the Columbia Gateway Urban Renewal Agency Board and the Urban Renewal Advisory Committee. Members of both boards reached consensus that one new board should be established and the Urban Renewal Advisory Committee should be dissolved.

“There was frustration on both boards; a feeling they weren’t receiving the same information on projects,” explained The Dalles City Manager Julie Krueger. “They agreed it would simplify the process and be more efficient to have one board. Also, proposals would not have to be provided on separate occasions.”

Mayor Steve Lawrence pointed out that the Urban Renewal District was guided by just one board at its origin.

“Historically, in 1990 when the Urban Renewal District was created, there was only one committee,” Lawrence said. “In 1998, that was changed to the city council acting as the agency. This really takes us back to what was originally done.”

The 1998 ordinance changed the structure of the board exercising the powers of the Columbia Gateway Urban Renewal Agency by establishing the city council as the governing body and also creating a citizen's advisory committee consisting of public representatives and representatives of local taxing districts.

Lawrence said he does not believe having city council members make all the urban renewal decisions is a wise approach.

“Having the city council act as the agency is kind of like putting the fox in the hen house,” Lawrence explained. “The urban renewal board needs to be independent, with strong staff and a strong plan.”

The reconfigured board approved Sept. 12 will have nine members. It will include three members of the city council and two members of the public that represent businesses located within the boundaries of the Urban Renewal District. These five members will be appointed by the mayor, but subject to the city council's approval.

In addition, four governing bodies -- Wasco County, the Mid-Columbia Fire & Rescue District, the Northern Wasco County Parks & Recreation District, and the Port of the Dalles -- will each choose one representative to serve on the board.

“The ordinance won’t take effect for 30 days, so I tentatively scheduled for the Oct. 24 meeting to appoint the members,” said Krueger. “That will also give us time to contact our partners to make sure who they want for their representatives.”

Before the Sept. 12 vote to approve the reconfigured board, council member Taner Elliott questioned whether altering the process could jeopardize ongoing negotiations over possible sale of properties in the city’s Granada Block downtown.

Krueger said there was no reason to believe consolidating the boards would have an impact on ongoing negotiations.

Lawrence said he expects the restructuring of the board to streamline urban renewal evaluations.

“Information flow will be better,” Lawrence said. “It’s a similar group of people making the decisions, except they will make the decisions all at once without going through a two-step process.”


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