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Points of the Day

March 11, 2010

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Plans for boosting economic development in Molalla, revamping Portland's Rose Quarter and designating urban-rural reserves in the Portland area are all facing scrutiny.

Clear One sale a windfall

St. Charles hospitals in Bend and Redmond could share over $7.6 million in proceeds if the sale of Clear One Health Plans Inc. is approved.

The sale has yet to be finalized, and it hasn't been determined yet how the proceeds will be used by the hospitals.

Eugene-based PacificSource Health Plans announced in December it would acquire Bend-based Clear One, offering $26 per share for a deal worth roughly $44.4 million. Clear One, which provides health insurance to 40,000 members in Oregon and Montana, has roughly 140 employees, the majority of whom are in Bend.

The St. Charles hospitals are owned by Cascade Healthcare Community, based in Bend.

Read the full story at The Bulletin.

No fees, more business

In an experiment that no Oregon city has tried in at least 15 years, Molalla began waiving building fees in December to spur economic development.

Three months later, the experiment — which is set to last throughout 2010 or until it collects $1 million in waivers — is already paying off, but not without criticism.

A 160-unit apartment complex and adjoining retail project, which the developer said wouldn't have moved forward without the waivers, is now targeted for Molalla's struggling downtown core. A formal application is expected as early as Thursday.

Yet far from generating unanimous local applause, the proposed project has become a focal point in the contentious debate over who should foot the bill for development.

Read the full story at OregonLive.com.

Rose Quarter faces doubts

The Portland City Council is close to choosing a developer for the revamp of the Memorial Coliseum.

But beyond the coliseum, questions still remain over what to do with the rest of the Rose Quarter, how much it will cost for the improvements and who will pay for it.

...One of the biggest questions is where the city will find the money to upgrade the coliseum — which it owns — and to build the street, sidewalk, water and sewer improvements that will be needed in the Rose Quarter. Depending on the scope of the projects, such work could easily cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

An obvious source of money is urban renewal funds, the same city financing source that helped spur growth in the Pearl District and South Waterfront area, at least before the economy slowed down. In fact, the Portland Development Commission is overseeing a planning process that could pump $18.5 million or more into new redevelopment projects in North and Northeast Portland. It would add six parcels of property — including the Rose Quarter — to the existing Interstate Corridor Urban Renewal Area, which has already helped fund such projects as the Interstate MAX line and the New Columbia housing development.

Read the full story at the Portland Tribune.

Inspectors try to keep up

Portland's Bureau of Development Services is running low on reserves, with only $114,000 left in its fund.

While the Portland City Council approved a $1.5 million loan for the BDS, the bureau will soon ask the council for $3.7 million in general fund support to restore $20.5 full-time positions.

In the meantime, the BDS’ 36 remaining building inspectors continue to struggle to stay on top of their workload. Senior building mechanical inspector Jim Zarr said he has heard rumors that the construction industry could see a turnaround later this year, but he isn’t betting on it.

“It’s like fortune-telling,” Zarr said. “We hear rumors that people have plans to build, but it comes down to funding. And my understanding is the banks are requiring more collateral. The work is doable, but if someone is sick or goes on vacation, we don’t have anyone to fill in.”

Read the full story at the Daily Journal of Commerce.

Land plan threat

Metro and the three Portland-area counties approved a new plan last month designating 28,000 acres of urban reserves and 271,000 acres of rural reserves.

But while the plan was celebrated for its groundbreaking achievements, it faces the possibility of being overturned on appeal.

“I do fear that the decision will not survive that process,” Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder said before voting to approve the package Feb. 25. The whole region may be in for a “hamster wheel of litigation and appeal,” said Burkholder.

The land use watchdog group 1000 Friends of Oregon, in tandem with farmers and other allies, will contest inclusion of so much valuable Washington County farm land as urban reserves, said 1000 Friends’ Policy Director Mary Kyle McCurdy. That means taking its fight to the state Land Conservation and Development Commission and, if needed, the Oregon Court of Appeals.

Read the full story at the Portland Tribune.

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