Council tackles vehicle ordinance, room tax and revitalization grant

Photo by Gerald Santana for The Sentinel

September 15, 2022 - The Cottage Grove City Council met Monday, Sept. 12. It discussed several key items.

Title 10, “Camping Vehicle” ordinance amendment

Action at Monday night’s City Council meeting resulted in a diplomatic conversation over the right of way that camping vehicles have within city limits, and language that could be refreshed on the city ordinance, which loosely prohibits citizens using vehicles as shelter in Cottage Grove. Ultimately, this will be decided at a future date.

In a memo presented to the City Council on Monday by City Manager Richard Meyers, it specifies that camping in a vehicle is not prohibited in City Code but, that Council has “expressed an interest in establishing regulations for camping vehicles in order to protect the safety of the users of the right of way and balance the variety of uses.” It continues, that “the proposed ordinance does not prohibit camping in vehicles but provides reasonable limitations to protect other uses of the right of way.”

Under existing city ordinances, parked vehicles are given 72-hour parking restrictions, which includes campers, commercial, and recreational vehicles. Yet it was evident that the Council had to flesh out the definition of ‘vehicle’, including other language, and decide on whether the suggested amendment applied to non-motorized vehicles as well. Meyers noted that the changes in the ordinance's language needed cleaning up but that it was not intended to impact those unsheltered.

Meyers also recommended that Council hold the first vote on the intended ordinance and adopt the amendment to the ordinance at a different meeting. Councilors Candace Solesbee and Mike Fleck maintained their reservations, citing concerns; Councilor Fleck considered mitigating the impacts of those facing housing challenges with discussion and patience before a vote.

Councilor Greg Ervin favored general support of the amendment while Councilor Chalice Savage had questions to clarify what was defined as living in a vehicle and whether it applied to non-motorized transportation. And Councilor Kenneth Michael Roberts reasoned that, while he liked the recommendation on paper, they should look at the current programs set into place, referencing the current transitional housing development on Highway 99.

After a volley of civil discussion and appreciation for comments citing a previously passed ordinance, where the owners of church parking lots and private properties can host lodgers, other city regulations would still hold, such as noise, littering, waste management and other public laws.

The new revision to the ordinance is also meant to enforce camping vehicles parked in front of or near schools, and other locations where the 72-hour rotation would need closer attention. Solesbee questioned whether the amendment to the regulation would even make a difference or even worsen the camping overflow, considering the current ones in place. She cited concern for neighborhoods.

When conversation narrowed the specification of a vehicle as “motored,” Fleck changed his position. The ordinance was moved to a vote to be adopted, with Solesbee being the only holdout, with some apprehension. Councilor Jon Stinnett was absent for the vote.

Transient Room Tax discontinued by City of Eugene Finance

Director Roberta Likens prepared a staff report on ORS 305.620. In 2017, it was amended, allowing the Oregon Department of Revenue to collect local transient room taxes on behalf of cities and counties. The City of Cottage Grove has had one in effect since 1989, with a 4% tax rate in place prior to Dec. 31, 2001, with the City of Eugene contracted to collect the transient room tax from hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts here in Cottage Grove.

The City of Eugene recently provided notice that they will discontinue collecting transient lodging taxes in Cottage Grove, including other jurisdictions, and will now transition to using the Oregon Department of Revenue to collect city taxes within its own city limits.

The City of Eugene was charging the City of Cottage Grove $131 per month in administrative fees to collect the tax while the estimated monthly payment to the Department of Revenue will rise to $197, and now paid quarterly. The City of Cottage Grove is coordinating with those jurisdictions affected in Lane County to transition to the state as a group, starting Oct. 1, 2022.

Amending this code will align the City’s existing room tax procedures with the Department of Revenue’s administrative requirements. Likens’ report noted that the amendments do not create a new tax nor change the City’s existing room tax, applicable to rentals within Cottage Grove.

There was no opposition to the recommendation from Council, so the ordinance was held on the first vote.

$5 million grant breakdown

During concerns from council, Savage asked Public Works and Development Director Faye Stewart whether “forever chemicals” can be found in recent water quality reports and if the City of Cottage Grove is testing for them.

Stewart advocated contacting the Wastewater Superintendent.

Savage also asked about the recent $5 million dollar grant and a breakdown. Stewart was prepared with the initial Preliminary Engineering Report for the City’s EDA application for the proposed East Main Street improvements.

Included in the report is the project overview, with construction analysis and an opinion on probable cost. It states that “pedestrians will especially benefit from the improvements due to the increased safety that will be added to four busy intersections and sidewalks,” all of which are in the Historic Downtown area.

Improvements are set to include audible signs for pedestrians, a “furniture zone” for dining and retail operations, shared lane for cyclists and parking racks for bikes. Additionally, stormwater quality will improve with the construction of new parking lanes that allow runoff into gravel galleries.

The project will begin at Centennial Bridge and end at Eighth Street, addressing the high road crown, steep road edges that are not ADA compliant and deteriorating sidewalks and ramps, noted to be in poor condition. Detailed cost estimates also include crosswalk striping, new lamp posts, vehicular and pedestrian posts, water fountains and street trees, including a tree well.

Phase one design of the project is just underway, with phase two bidding and contracting to commence by Spring 2023, and construction expected to begin during the summer. Project completion is estimated by October 2024 or within 48 months of breaking ground.

Pop-up relocated

One interested citizen brought up something not an agenda: thanking the City Council for acting on the request to ask a neighborhood pop-up “food truck” to relocate away from a residential street that was creating a traffic nuisance.

The next regular Cottage Grove City Council Meeting is scheduled for Sept. 26, 2022, at 7 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at City Hall.

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