City needs ‘economic SWAT team’

Published in the West Linn Tidings and Oregonian:

On June 2, the West Linn City Council approved the regulatory streamlining project. This project lays the groundwork for solid economic development in West Linn. There are several significant changes in this project that will help grow businesses in the city.

West Linn is a vibrant community that wants commercial options. With the former code, we burdened applicants with unnecessary requirements, applications, processes and review.

Economic development has been a City Council goal for years. It is, however, not just our goal.  Based on a 2012 community survey, it was also the top goal for our residents — tied with financial management. We all want a vibrant city with choices to shop, eat and other general services.

Business retention and recruitment needs to be our priority. I’d like to see the council put into action an “economic SWAT team” to give struggling businesses help and recruit ones residents would like to have.

We have the second highest home-based businesses per capita in Oregon. While some are lifestyle businesses that will never grow out of the confines of the home, others want to expand their presence. Proactively working with these companies will make our economic development goals easier.

And, let’s not forget what our general business makeup is in West Linn: small businesses. These are typically owned by a single owner or family-based businesses. They are the businesses that will lead the economic recovery, give our children summer jobs and fill in the gaps so we don’t have to drive to other cities as often.

Many of these owners make large gambles when they decide to open or start their business. Over the past several years, we have all seen more and more of these businesses fail, commercial spaces all over town have gone dark and local jobs lost.

Yes, “economic development” has the word development in it. It’s no secret that our development opportunities are limited as we approach build-out. But there will be ample opportunities for redevelopment.

Small businesses bring jobs. Workers spend money in our stores, buy goods and services, create supplier opportunities and later create a vibrant community that others want to move to. These are signs of a healthy community.

We can’t fight development if want local businesses to succeed. But we can provide a predictable, understandable code that allows the type of development we want.

During the public hearing we heard from Dale Gibson. He wanted to remodel an existing space in an established shopping center. The process he was required to go through was ludicrous and regrettable and the fees were unjustifiable.

I am here to say I am sorry, and we fixed this.

We also changed our land use cases to “on the record.” The de novo process created more confusion for residents. The application was never “locked in” and residents scrambled to keep up with changes.

Locking in the application early gives everyone a fair playing field to read, understand and argue the applications as they are presented. Appeals are then streamlined to specifics within the decision criteria and honor those who participated during the public hearing.

When I ran for council, economic development was my top priority. Residents welcomed more businesses to shop and employment opportunities. This action on June 2 helped fulfill my promises to our community.


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