It was a relatively quiet week for council which held its first work session of the year on Wednesday. Our time was divided between an executive session and a brief discussion about the process for hiring or contracting with a new Municipal Court judge to replace Judge Wayne Allen who retired Dec. 31st.
Outside council chambers, however, there was a lot of movement. This is the transition week for the campers at Highway 99. The city, county and St. Vincent de Paul are inviting and assisting campers in relocating to the new warmer and better managed Dawn to Dawn site two blocks north. We recognize that not all of the current campers will want to live there, but we are committed to providing safe, warm shelter for 80 people; and will offer an additional 25 spots in a Rest Stop for those for whom individual tents is a preferred model.
Council has received many emails from constituents concerned about 5G small cell antennas. There are a couple of overlapping issues. First is a question of local control. The FCC has adopted policies that override local control of the rights of way for telecommunications and limit our capacity to charge fees for its use. The city of Eugene has joined the lawsuit appealing the FCC rulings and we are tracking this closely.
As for our local policies, in 1997 the council adopted comprehensive telecommunications ordinances; and the city administers standards and requirements regarding the construction and placement of cell facilities on both private property and public rights of way. Rules and standards are also applied to permit requests for new cell towers, prioritizing co-locating on existing city and EWEB poles. Neighbors to the new St. Vinnie’s Annex at Fox Hollow and E. Amazon are questioning the new 5G antenna, which has been attached to an existing EWEB pole, but this complies with our current regulations.
Finally, council will return on Monday for the next step in addressing our housing shortage with a consideration of creating a Construction Excise Tax (CET). You may recall that a decision about a proposed CET in early 2018 was postponed. Council requested insights into how a CET would impact or compound other fees and requirements on new construction. This question was folded into the larger six-month public engagement “Housing Tools and Strategies” process. In addition, a broad coalition of housing providers, realtors and advocates, Better Housing Together, specifically explored the parameters of a CET that would meet our goals to create a revenue stream to support affordable housing without creating an insurmountable financial burden to builders.
As a result of that work, staff is presenting council with a modified CET to respond to concerns by the building community that additional fees will render some projects financially unbuildable.
I hope that council will incorporate the insights from stakeholders over the past year and move forward on this important decision. The proposal also includes an annual city of Eugene investment of $500,000 in the affordable housing fund.