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Keeping in touch: Notes from the Mayor

Mayor Lucy VinisThis blog aims to nurture our conversation and understanding of the issues before us. Every week, I will provide a weekly update on the activities in the city government, my activities as mayor, and brief reflections on progress, opportunities and challenges. You are invited to respond with reactions, insights and questions. We do this work together.

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May 24

Weekly Recap- May 24, 2019

Posted on May 24, 2019 at 3:31 PM by Nicole Bernstein

Three major concerns were addressed by council this week, with another significant issue on deck for Tuesday, the 28th.

On Monday night, council’s work session was a chance to review, discuss and move forward on approval of proposed code language pertaining to housing criteria. This work is part of the broader “Envision Eugene” urban growth boundary process to identify where and how future housing can be built.  The city is required by state law to adopt “clear and objective” criteria regarding the standards, conditions and procedures regulating the development of new housing. They encompass things like buffer requirements between new development and existing housing, tree preservation and street standards.  Council approved a motion to move forward to a public hearing with the understanding that Planning Commissioners would have additional time to review five of the criteria about which there was less agreement. That hearing will happen in the fall.

The 7:30 session was a public hearing on two issues: a quick vote to approve the expanded hours for tailgating at Autzen Stadium which was successfully piloted in 2018; and a full house of testimony regarding proposed ordinance changes regulating Accessory Dwelling Units. The 42 people who testified were almost equally divided about one key regulation under consideration for change: the requirement that property be occupied by the owner in order to build an ADU. As a reminder, the city is responding to a remand of our 2018 code updates by the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA). The city has filed a partial response to the remand and ideally will have a response in time to inform the council’s next deliberation scheduled for June 10th.  This ordinance may also be impacted by the legislature’s decision on HB 2001 which includes definitive language about owner occupancy.

On Wednesday, Council heard a detailed and complex presentation by NW Natural regarding their decarbonization strategies.  This discussion pertains to council’s upcoming decision about the franchise agreement with NW Natural; and is a part of our broader climate action plan. There is pressure to reduce and ultimately eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels; and a reality about how completely and quickly that can happen.  Council has questions about NW Natural’s goal to increase biogas by 25% by 2050 (not big enough soon enough) and concern about the source of natural gas (is it fracked?) My take-away from this conversation is that while some aspects of our agreement with NW Natural will be contained in the franchise agreement; many other issues could be more effectively addressed in a separate agreement. The existing franchise is a 20-year agreement; I would hope council would aim for a shorter timeline for the next one to enable us to recalibrate as new technologies emerge and the market shifts – particularly for solar and geothermal.

On Wednesday, the Budget Committee approved small but important additions to the Manager’s proposed budget: the creation of a Multicultural Services Director position; funding for more monitored rest rooms downtown; and a recommendation that the Manager explore creating a revolving loan fund to support residents with down payments; emergency rental assistance, and mortgages. These could be funded through the newly enacted Construction Excise Tax.

Finally, next week’s council meeting and public forum will be on Tuesday, the 28th, at the Public Library because Monday is a holiday. We will hold a hearing at 7:30 on the proposed Community Safety Revenue payroll tax. The public form will be held AFTER the public hearing to ensure that council has ample time to hear about this key policy decision.