City councilors held a lengthy meeting Monday which ended with approving the budget for the next year, and narrowly rejecting a motion to allow taller buildings in the South Central Association of Neighbors neighborhood.
Monday’s city council meeting stretched long into the evening – over four hours – with councilors extending the meeting time until 10:30 p.m.
Two hours of the meeting was spent hearing public testimony, much of it on the ordinance that would have allowed taller mixed-use apartment buildings in SCAN, the neighborhood just south of downtown that includes Bush’s Pasture Park.
The council ultimately voted the ordinance down 5-4.
City budget – approved
Councilors approved the adoption of the city budget for the next year, with Mayor Chris Hoy and councilors Virginia Stapleton, Linda Nishioka, Trevor Phillips, Jose Gonzalez, Vanessa Nordyke and Micki Varney in favor.
Councilors Deanna Gwyn and Julie Hoy, the newest members of the council, voted against the budget.
“I believe we should be making sacrifices and not reaching for more money,” Councilor Hoy, who has no relation to Mayor Hoy, said during the meeting.
Mayor Hoy said that not passing the budget was not an option. The state deadline for the city to approve the budget is imminent, on July 1.
“If, in the future, you’re not satisfied with the budget as approved to this point, you’re always welcome to make motions to amend it, and we would have that discussion and go from there,” he said. “Not having a budget isn’t an option. We’re required by law to have a balanced budget, tonight is literally the deadline, the last time we can adopt the budget.”
Raising height limits for buildings in the SCAN neighborhood – Rejected
The council rejected an ordinance that would have allowed for taller buildings, denser housing and mixed-used development in the South Central Association of Neighbors by eliminating the area’s special zoning districts, called overlay zones.
If eliminated, the new zoning would have allowed for buildings 55, 65 and 70 feet tall, which would encourage denser, mixed-use housing, according to the staff report. 65 feet is around five stories tall.
The motion would have also removed restrictions on how close buildings can be to the street, screening, site access and landscaping. A building on South Saginaw Street, for example, currently must be 30 feet from the street with a minimum 6 foot high hedge.
Councilors heard nearly two hours of information and public testimony on the subject, followed by a lengthy discussion.
The ordinance failed. Councilors Varney, Stapleton, Gwyn and Gonzalez voted in favor of moving it forward, while Nordyke, Nishioka, Phillips, Hoy and Mayor Hoy were opposed.
“We didn’t change anything, we just kept the rules the way they are,” Mayor Hoy said after the vote, which drew applause from residents.
Councilors approved an application for federal money to develop a Salem Vision Zero Plan, and start a 20-is-Plenty Program. The city is seeking funds for its action plan in the city’s pedestrian safety study, which recommended protected crossings, better lighting and education campaigns.
Councilors Gwyn and Hoy voted in opposition, saying they’d prefer resources go to other city services, like homelessness and policing.
Councilors unanimously passed the other measures on the agenda, including setting the tax rate for the Downtown Parking district and adopting the capital improvement plan.
The city’s budget for the next year, construction plans for the next five years and the first look at a plan to phase out free parking downtown are on this Monday’s city council agenda.
READ IT: Agenda
How to participate
The Salem City Council meets Monday, June 26, at 6 p.m. in-person at the city council chambers, 555 Liberty St. S.E. room 220, with the meeting also available to watch online.
The public comment portion of the meeting takes place after opening exercises, such as roll call and the Pledge of Allegiance, and residents are invited to comment on any topic, whether it appears on the agenda or not. If a public comment does not relate to an agenda item, it may be saved for the end of the meeting.
To comment remotely, sign up on the city website between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Monday.
For written comments, email [email protected] before 5 p.m. on Monday, or on paper to the city recorder’s office at the Civic Center, 555 Liberty St. S.E., Room 225. Include a statement indicating the comment is for the public record.
Budget adoption and payroll tax
On Monday, councilors will vote on whether to adopt the 2023-24 budget, which they approved in 7-2 vote during the June 12 meeting.
The city is required under Oregon law to adopt a budget before July 1, which will authorize the spending included in it.
The budget includes $756 million in spending, and increased spending to add more park rangers, code enforcement, downtown security and Salem Outreach and Livability Services team, which works with Salem’s homeless community to make service referrals and do sanitation work.
The funding for the additional staff comes from an increase to the city operations fee, approved during the June 12 meeting and will show up on utility bills July 1.
Councilors will have the first reading on an employee-paid payroll tax, applying to wages earned within the city of Salem. The 0.814% tax would apply to employees earning more than minimum wage, and, if approved, start July 1, 2024.
The council plans to host a public hearing on July 10 regarding the payroll tax. Councilors are considering adopting the tax without sending it to a vote of citizens.
Paid parking downtown
Councilors will consider adopting the parking district budget for the next year, and set the tax rate for the Downtown Parking district, which taxes businesses to fund parkade upkeep and subsidize street parking.
The proposed tax rate is a 2% increase from previous rates, yielding a $1.1 million operating budget for downtown parking. This would raise the single space rate from $162.47 per year to $165.72 per year, and lift the minimum annual tax from $451 to $460.
The tax operates by estimating how much demand each building generates, based on the type of business and square footage. A coffee shop, which sees short-term parking and has less space, would pay less than a department store.
The current estimated demand for parking from businesses is 2,881 spaces, and there are 3,417 total spaces in the downtown parking district, according to a memo from Kristin Retherford, director of community & urban development.
The increase of 2% is the maximum allowed, under a rate cap implemented in 2013. The increase comes as the city looks for more resources to support upkeep and security at downtown parking structures.
The council will also see, but not take action on, a downtown paid parking implementation plan from city staff that would phase out the parking district tax.
Transitioning to a paid model would maximize use of parking spaces and have financial benefits, said Retherford in a staff report.
Two-thirds of the parking downtown doesn’t require a permit, Retherford said in the report. Existing permit fees have not been enough to cover operation costs.
She said revenue issues are largely caused by retail closures and “changes in remote worker parking needs.”
Under the proposed implementation plan, there would still be free customer parking in parking garages, while paid parking would be on the streets for up to 8 hours.
The plan includes a timeline, which would officially close the parking district in the summer of 2026.
This summer, the plan includes reviewing location for new equipment, finalizing projected costs and making a communication plan with residents.
In the fall, the city plans to do a survey of downtown parking use, and collect data on the benefits of paid parking, assess parking apps and order equipment.
Construction projects through 2028
Councilors will consider adopting the capital improvement plan, which outlines $444 million in planned projects through 2028.
Transportation projects are the largest projected expense, at $174 million. Plans include bike lanes, curbs and sidewalk replacement on Southwest McGilchrist Street for $35.5 million total.
Pedestrian improvements are planned throughout the city, including a project totaling $2.3 million to widen sections of Northwest Orchard Heights Road, and build a pedestrian island at Northwest Parkway Drive.
Utility upgrades are projected to cost a total $149 million, with projects to improve drainage and stormwater treatment.
$90 million is planned for municipal facilities, including a remaining $2.2 million to finish the Public Works Building, and $32 million is planned for community facilities, including parks.
Reducing pedestrian deaths
Councilors will consider an application for federal money to develop a Salem Vision Zero Plan, and start a 20-is-Plenty Program. The city estimates the programs could cost a combined $3 million, according to a staff report from Brian Martin, public works director.
The grant, from the federal Department of Transportation’s Safe Streets and Roads for All Program, would fund the city’s initiatives to prevent deaths and serious injuries on Salem’s roadways. It requires a 20% local match, which staff recommend funding through funds provided by the state gas tax.
The city is seeking funds for its action plan in the city’s pedestrian safety study, which recommended protected crossings, better lighting and education campaigns.
For the 20-is-Plenty program, funding would help the city install new 20 mph signs on residential streets, add speed radar signs and launch a public education campaign.
Addressing climate change
Councilors will receive reports on two programs intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Salem.
The city is required by new state rules to make a regional plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from vehicle travel through land use and transportation planning and regulations.
The process will kick off now and take about 18 months, according to a work program included in the council packet. City representatives will work with the City of Keizer, Marion County and the Salem Area Mass Transit District on the project, which requires public engagement.
The city is also partnering with the University of Oregon’s Sustainable City Year Program, which enlists university faculty and students to provide recommendations for implementing city goals around liveable and sustainable development.
The city would reimburse the university up to $150,000 for the contract, which runs from June 26, 2023 to Sept. 30, 2024.
Other items for council vote
-Transferring a total of $635,000 to multiple city departments to cover costs incurred over budget, including $200,000 in overtime for firefighters and $370,000 in human resources employee and software costs
-A three-year collective bargaining agreement with the city’s 911 operator union which includes annual 3% raises. The raises will cost the city $2.1 million over the life of the contract.
-A three-year agreement with the city attorney union which includes a 7% pay raise effective July 1, and a 3% raise in 2024 and 2025. The raises are expected to cost the city a total of $385,541 over the life of the contract.
–Increasing the pay of crime analysts, environmental compliance technicians, 911 communications shift supervisors to be more competitive with market rates. The adjustments are expected to cost the city a total of $36,000 in the police department, $7,800 in public works and $25,000 in the fire department for the upcoming fiscal year
-An agreement with the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians allowing an affordable housing development on tribal land at 3390 Blossom Drive N.E. to receive city services.
Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-704-0355.
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Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.