City News

UPDATE: Councilors approve $750k grant to downtown apartment development

The Salem City Council approved support for a downtown apartment complex and the formation of a revenue task force to address city budget issues during a busy meeting on Monday, Nov. 27. 

Downtown apartment grant – approved

The Urban Renewal Agency, made up of the council members, unanimously approved a $749,999 grant to subsidize a six-story apartment building downtown using the Riverfront-Downtown Urban Renewal Area Capital Improvement Grant Program.

Developers plan to build the $27 million building at 277 High Street N.E., currently a vacant parking lot. It would have 98 apartments, including studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom with 29 parking spaces onsite and bike storage.

They plan to make 16 of the units affordable, spread proportionally between the different apartment sizes. 

Forming a revenue task force – approved

Councilors voted 8-1 to approve the formation of a revenue task force to seek new ways to bring in money and address the city’s budget deficit, which will consider a range of options including levies, fees and taxes. Councilor Julie Hoy, who announced Tuesday she’s running for mayor in 2024, was the sole vote in opposition.

Colleen Rozillis, a consultant at the firm Moss Adams, presented during Monday’s council meeting. The firm will manage the task force.

The last task force met in 2018, and their suggestions included implementing the operations fee, a monthly charge on city utility bills to fund operations that was implemented in 2020. They also suggested a payroll tax, which failed at the ballot box on Nov. 7. Rozillis said a lot has changed since the last task force met, including the pandemic and changing county tax situations.

“That work was very good and there’s a lot to work from, but we’re in a completely different world today, and so the goal is simply not to refresh the 2018 revenue task force,” she said. 

The city will further discuss what the task force will look like at the Monday, Dec. 4, council meeting and city staff will present a final plan during the Dec. 11 meeting.

The task force would likely meet once a month at a minimum, and Rozillis recommended it have about 20 members.

Councilors asked Rozillis to prioritize including diverse perspectives and experiences in the task force, including people working for minimum wage and businesses of all sizes. Councilor Virginia Stapleton said she would be interested in looking into providing compensation and childcare options to members to encourage working families to participate.

If the task force recommends something that would go to voters in the November 2024 election, they will need to make a recommendation by July, according to a staff report from Chief Financial Officer Josh Eggleston.

Moss Adams’ fees will cost the city $120,000, and city staff do not have the capacity to facilitate the task force without the consultants, Eggleston said. It will also use community engagement consultants Parachute Strategies, who would cost $55,000 and polling from DHM that would cost $45,000.

Community engagement will include eight focus groups, one per council district, community surveys and three town halls, according to Moss Adams.

Land purchase to build a park – approved

Councilors unanimously approved a $1.5 million purchase of a 6.6 acre property near State Street and Northeast Cordon Road, to be turned into a future urban park. The city will use parks system development charges for the purchase.

The site was identified a decade ago in the Comprehensive Park System Master Plan Update. According to the plan, standard facilities in urban parks include restrooms, ADA-compliant paths, a playground and seating. 

Shelton Ditch repairs – approved

Councilors unanimously approved buying a property so that the city can carry out its planned repairs of Shelton Ditch, which provides flooding relief to Mill Creek and several Salem neighborhoods but has eroded significantly, according to a staff report from Kristen Retherford, director of Community and Urban Development.

The $350,000 purchase includes a residential lot and single-family home at 802 24th St. S.E. 

Roads to connect a planned West Salem apartment complex – advanced to second reading

Councilors moved a plan forward to reclassify Northwest Landaggard Drive as a local street and to extend Northwest Colorado Drive to connect with Northwest Doaks Ferry Road. The changes would accommodate the planned 436-unit Titan Hill Apartments that the council approved in August.

Several public commenters said that the steep grade of the new road would not be accessible to people using mobility devices. Public works director Brian Martin said the plans follow ADA guidelines and match the topography of the area. 

Councilor Micki Varney said the new roads would make traffic safer near West Salem High School, and add more access to Straub Nature Park.

Varney made a motion to add language to the ordinance that acknowledges the challenges a 12% road grade provides to people with disabilities. Councilors approved the addition 8-1, with Councilor Vanessa Nordyke opposed, saying the road was already ADA compliant. 

Stapleton said she wants to see less car-centric planning in the city’s upcoming long-term transportation planning, but that it was the time to vote on these plans.

“I want to be somebody who pushes for change for people in a way that impacts their life every day. I want to make sure that they’re seen and heard, that they feel represented when they’re out on our streets. And this street doesn’t do that,” she said. “I think the first step is acknowledging that it doesn’t.”

The ordinance will go to a second reading, where the council will consider whether to approve the road plans, which the developer would build. 

Changes to business signs and billboards – advanced to second reading

Councilors advanced an ordinance to change the city’s sign code which will affect the size and places that businesses can put up signs.

The changes would limit the maximum size allowance for signs in windows near public streets to 50% of the total window space on the building’s facade. The changes would also extend the time period for sign permit extension requests from 90 to 180 days.

It would also change standards for illuminated signs to measure brightness through foot-candles rather than lumens. Foot-candles describe the amount of light that reaches a surface, and are a more standardized and accessible measurement recommended by the International Sign Association, according to a memo from Retherford. 

Billboards in some mixed use zones of the city are proposed to be removed, but existing signs would be allowed to be maintained and repaired. Much of Southeast Commercial Street is zoned mixed use zoning, according to the city’s interactive zoning map.

Changes to low-income housing tax code – advanced to second reading

Councilors unanimously advanced an ordinance that would make changes to the tax code for low-income housing to a later vote.

The changes include requiring the applicant to demonstrate financial viability, and lowering the required annual deposit for capital reserve from $1,200 per unit per year to $450 per unit per year. 

Parking lots and single-room housing – approved

Councilors unanimously approved changes to parking codes, and to allow more single-room housing in compliance with state climate requirements. 

The ordinance requires climate mitigation, like tree cover, solar panels or contributing to a renewable energy fund, when developing parking lots larger than a half-acre. It would also allow existing parking lots to be converted into park and rides.

The changes would also allow single-room occupancy housing in all residential, commercial and mixed-use zones, which have private living spaces but shared kitchens and/or restrooms.

Repairs at Willow Lake  – approved

Councilors unanimously approved a change in the competitive bidding process for repairs at the Willow Lake Water Pollution Control Facility. The city plans to spend $4.5 million in utility rates to fix two deteriorating anaerobic digesters, where organic matter breaks down.

Martin said the exemption, which allows an alternate contracting method, would save money and improve the design process by allowing contractor involvement earlier.

Natural hazard mitigation plan – approved

Councilors unanimously approved an update to the city’s natural hazard mitigation plan, which addresses preparation and responses to disasters like floods and earthquakes.

Other agenda items

-Approved changes to climate mitigation fees at the Salem Municipal Airport. The changes would decrease parking costs from $15 a day to $10 a day to encourage more customers. It would also add a new development fee of $1,500 per parking space to fund solar and wind power infrastructure in compliance with state rules. Council approved 7-2, with Stapleton and Deanna Gwyn opposed. 

–Councilors unanimously approved annexing a 48-acre territory at 7006 Sunnyside Road Southeast and 7102 Cains Place Southeast.

Original Story:

The Salem City Council will consider a revenue task force to address its budget shortage, a land purchase for a future park and changes to sign, parking and tax codes during its Monday, Nov. 27, meeting. 

How to participate 

The council meets Monday, Nov. 27, 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 meeting will be livestreamed on Capital Community Media’s YouTube channel, with translation to Spanish and American Sign Language available. Anyone may attend the meeting to listen or comment.

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.

READ IT: Agenda

Downtown apartment grant

The council will meet as the city’s Urban Renewal Agency board and consider a $749,999 grant to subsidize a six-story apartment building downtown, using the Riverfront-Downtown Urban Renewal Area Capital Improvement Grant Program. The grant would be used to partially fund costs to build 98 apartments at 277 High Street N.E. 

Developers plan to build a $27 million, six-story, mixed-use building at the site with 16 units of affordable housing. The apartments would be studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom, and there would be around 29 parking spaces onsite.

The old Salem City Hall was on the site until it was demolished in 1972, then the First National Bank Building was put in then demolished in 2016.

“The parking lot and adjacent fenced hole in the ground resulting from the demolition of the former First National Bank Building (Wells Fargo) have contributed to the lack of vibrancy in the area,” said Kristen Retherford, director of community and urban development in a staff report.

Forming a revenue task force

Councilors will decide whether to form a revenue task force to seek new options to bring in money and address the city’s budget deficit. 

The city plans to bring whatever revenue option the task force decides to voters in the November 2024 election, according to a staff report from Chief Financial Officer Josh Eggleston. For that to happen, he said they will need to make a recommendation by July.

The last revenue task force met in 2018, and its suggestions included a payroll tax. The city council approved the payroll tax in July, which was then brought to the voters through a referendum. It was decidedly rejected in the Nov. 7 election. 

The council met on Oct. 25 to discuss forming the task force, and directed staff to prioritize community engagement and a wide range of perspectives.


Consultant group Moss Adams will manage the task force, and will collaborate with city staff and the council to identify revenue options and the pros, cons and risks of them. The group prepared a scope of work plan that outlines the next several months. 

Moss Adams’ fees will cost the city $120,000, and city staff do not have the capacity to facilitate the task force without the consultants, Eggleston said.

City staff also recommend working with community engagement consultants Parachute Strategies, who would cost $55,000 and polling from DHM that would cost $45,000.

Community engagement will include eight focus groups, one per council district, community surveys and three town halls, according to Moss Adams.

Land purchase to build a park 

Councilors will consider a $1.5 million purchase of a 6.6 acre property near State Street and Northeast Cordon Road, to be turned into a future urban park. The city would use parks system development charges for the purchase.

The site was identified a decade ago in the Comprehensive Park System Master Plan Update. According to the plan, standard facilities in urban parks include restrooms, ADA-compliant paths, a playground and seating. 

Shelton Ditch repairs

Councilors will consider buying a property so that the city can carry out its planned repairs of Shelton Ditch, which provides flooding relief to Mill Creek and several Salem neighborhoods but has eroded significantly, according to a staff report from Kristen Retherford, director of Community and Urban Development.

The $350,000 purchase would include a residential lot and single-family home at 802 24th St. S.E. 

Roads to connect a planned West Salem apartment complex

Councilors will consider reclassifying Northwest Landaggard Drive as a local street and extending Northwest Colorado Drive to connect with Northwest Doaks Ferry Road. The changes would accommodate the planned 436-unit Titan Hill Apartments that the council approved in August.

Councilor Micki Varney said during the meeting the new roads would make traffic safer near West Salem High School, and add more access to Straub Nature Park.

Funds for replacing and fixing bridges

More of Salem’s bridges need to be replaced, according to the Public Works Department. Of Salem’s bridges, five are eligible for federal funding to be replaced and 22 are eligible to be rehabilitated. That’s over twice the amount identified in 2020.

On Nov. 6, the city submitted applications for federal funding for several bridges, according to a staff report from Brian Martin, public works director, which the council will hear an informational report on. They include:

-$15.4 million to replace the bridge over Mill Creek at Southeast Turner Road. The bridge is 66 years old, and is the main connection to Turner. 

-$2.9 million to fix rails, concrete and cracks for the Southeast Church Street bridge over Pringle Creek, a 94-year-old historic bridge near Salem Hospital.

-$8.5 million to replace a narrow road on Southeast Airport Road over Shelton Ditch.

-$40.3 million to replace a 95-year-old bridge over Pringle Creek at Southeast Liberty Street. The bridge’s concrete is degrading, according to the report. 

In April, the Oregon Department of Transportation will work with the Local Area Bridge Selection Committee to consider the list of bridges, and make recommendations for federal funding in 2027-2030. 

Changes to business signs and billboards

Councilors will have a first reading of an ordinance to change the city’s sign code which will affect the size and places that businesses can put up signs. Councilors will decide on Monday whether to advance the ordinance to a vote.

In their Monday, Nov. 13, meeting, councilors approved an amendment that increased the proposed maximum size allowance for signs in windows near public streets from 20% of surface area per window to 50% of the total window space on the building’s facade. 

The proposed amendments come after several years of planning, and a public hearing held by the Planning Commission in May where commenters raised concerns about outdoor advertising signs, temporary signs, public art and light pollution.

The changes would also extend the time period for sign permit extension requests from 90 to 180 days.

It would also change standards for illuminated signs to measure brightness through foot-candles rather than lumens. Foot-candles describe the amount of light that reaches a surface, and are a more standardized and accessible measurement recommended by the International Sign Association, according to a memo from Retherford. 

Billboards in some mixed use zones of the city are proposed to be removed, but existing signs would be allowed to be maintained and repaired. Much of Southeast Commercial Street is zoned mixed use zoning, according to the city’s interactive zoning map.

Changes to low-income housing tax code

Councilors will consider whether to advance an ordinance that would make changes to the tax code for low-income housing to a later vote. The code allows for a tax exemption for up to 10 years.

The changes include requiring the applicant to demonstrate financial viability, and lowering the required annual deposit for capital reserve from $1,200 per unit per year to $450 per unit per year. It also adds an income verification review every three years, according to a staff report from Retherford.

As of Monday’s meeting, there are 17 properties enrolled or applying to the program, with a total of 384 units. From them, foregone taxes for the city in this fiscal year totaled $252,800.

Parking lots and single-room housing

Councilors will vote on proposed changes to parking codes, and to allow more single-room housing in compliance with state climate requirements. 

The ordinance would require climate mitigation, like tree cover, solar panels or contributing to a renewable energy fund, when developing parking lots larger than a half-acre. It would also allow existing parking lots to be converted into park and rides.

The changes would also allow single-room occupancy housing in all residential, commercial and mixed-use zones, which have private living spaces but shared kitchens and/or restrooms.

Repairs at Willow Lake 

Councilors will consider exempting a Willow Lake Water Pollution Control Facility project from the competitive bidding process, as recommended by Martin in a staff report. He said the exemption would save money and improve the design process by allowing contractor involvement earlier.

If approved, the alternate contracting method would have a competitive request for proposal process open to all qualified contractors. 

The Willow Lake facility treats wastewater for the cities of Salem, Keizer, Turner, the community of Four Corners and unincorporated Marion County. The city plans to spend $4.5 million in utility rates to fix two deteriorating anaerobic digesters, where organic matter breaks down.

Natural hazard mitigation plan

Councilors will consider an update to the city’s natural hazard mitigation plan, which addresses preparation and responses to disasters like floods and earthquakes.

City staff and representatives from multiple departments and local organizations, like Salem Hospital, the Red Cross and Salem-Keizer Public Schools review and update the plan regularly. The plan was approved by FEMA, according to a document from its State Hazard Mitigation Officer Anna Feigum. 

The council last adopted the plan in 2017. The update councilors will consider Monday will be effective through 2029. The updated plan can be found here

The updated risk assessment identified 11 natural hazards that could impact the city, from extreme heat to earthquakes and winter storms. The plan said climate change will likely increase the chances of several of the hazards.

Other agenda items

-Changes to climate mitigation fees at the Salem Municipal Airport. The changes would decrease parking costs from $15 a day to $10 a day to encourage more customers. It would also add a new development fee of $1,500 per parking space to fund solar and wind power infrastructure in compliance with state rules.

Councilors will consider whether to annex a 48-acre territory at 7006 Sunnyside Road Southeast and 7102 Cains Place Southeast.

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.