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City Council Study Session Minutes

Minutes
Thursday, April 30, 2015

Medford City Council Study Session Minutes
April 30, 2015
 
 
The meeting was called to order at noon in the City Hall Medford Room, 411 W. 8th Street, Medford with the following members present:
 
Mayor Gary Wheeler; Councilmembers Clay Bearnson, Daniel Bunn, Chris Corcoran*, Dick Gordon*, Tim Jackle, Eli Matthews, Kevin Stine, and Michael Zarosinski
 
City Manager Eric Swanson; Deputy City Manager Bill Hoke; Deputy City Manager for Development Services Chris Reising; Building Director Sam Barnum; Building Department Development Services Administrator Christy Taylor; Finance Director Alison Chan; Police Chief Tim George; Police Sgt. Don Lane; Police Code Enforcement Administrative Support Technician Suzi Gish; Parks and Recreation Office Administrator Jennifer Sparacino; Parks and Recreation Grants Support Technician Angela Durant; Planning Director Jim Huber; Deputy City Attorney Kevin McConnell
 
*Arrived and or left as noted.
 
Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development, Inc. (SOREDI) Ė Ron Fox
Deputy City Manager Bill Hoke introduced SOREDIís Executive Director Ron Fox and Senior Business Development Manager Colleen Johnston. Mr. Fox stated that they are requesting additional funding; he provided an update on projects they have been working on and included information on 310 Marketing, who will be calling lead generation prospects. SOREDI has added one additional person who was in the media industry. Ms. Johnston will focus on business prospects. Mr. Fox also stated they have many entrepreneurs that work at their home and SOREDI would like to build that effort and provide the energy on assisting with marketing ideas, etc. SOREDI currently receives $33,000 from the City of Medford but would like to receive $57,000.
 
Councilmember Matthews questioned if the lead generation firm makes calls from within or outside Oregon; Mr. Fox stated that we try not to call businesses within Oregon. The 1,500 calls made will be companies outside of Oregon; the most successful is when these companies come to our area and check us out. Usually SOREDI only does trade shows, and will continue to do that, or leads from others. Ms. Johnston stated that when we work with Business Oregon incentives do not extend to those companies that are in Oregon. Councilmember Gordon questioned how they determine which companies to check out. Mr. Fox stated that they look at which companies are here, business prospects, and the growth of sectors. In the future they may expand to other categories. 
 
City Manager Eric Swanson talked about adding this request to the budget. Mr. Hoke stated that the lead firm does inform prospects that the water supply is good in this area and that the food and beverage industry looks very strongly at this. Mr. Hoke also noted that we need businesses that donít leave a dirty footprint.
 
Blighted Buildings Ė Deputy City Manager for Development Services Chris Reising
Deputy City Manager for Development Services Chris Reising introduced Police Sgt. Don Lane, Police Code Enforcement Administrative Support Technician Suzi Gish, Building Development Services Administrator Christy Taylor, Parks and Recreation Office Administrator Jennifer Sparacino, and Parks and Recreation Grants Support Technician Angela Durant who are all involved with blighted buildings. He provided a PowerPoint presentation on Code Enforcement and how that pertains to blighted buildings. He further stated that the Police Department appreciates Code Enforcement in their department.
 
Sgt. Lane explained the current enforcement pertaining to blighted/vacant buildings and stated that most of the time it requires abatement of some sort due to activity in the area, such as unwanted garbage from others dumped at the vacant home.
 
*Councilmember Chris Corcoran arrived at 12:32 p.m.
 
Staff requested a code revision that would give firm timelines, a shorter termination date for boarded-up houses, and provide guidelines for processing. They would also like to adopt the 2012 International Property Maintenance Code Manual. Building Director Sam Barnum provided information on what Bend, Hillsboro, Salem, Portland, and Beaverton are doing.
 
Councilmember Matthews noted that most blighted up buildings are bank owned and questioned what the response of the banks are. Ms. Taylor told the story of one property that is bank owned. Councilmember Matthews questioned how some cities can use a shorter time frame; Mr. Barnum noted that he would have to look at that.
 
Councilmember Stine questioned when the enactment would start on the current blighted buildings. Mr. Reising noted that we would start the clock when the ordinance is passed. Ms. Taylor noted that Finance Director Alison Chan stated that she would be proactive with blighted buildings. Ms. Taylor stated that presently we have a Board of Appeals and people do have a chance to appeal. Councilmember Jackle questioned the appeal procedure; staff provided information and stated that fines are paid through Municipal Court. Councilmember Bearnson questioned if the fine includes staff time; Mr. Reising stated that it doesnít.
 
Mayor Wheeler questioned Mr. Reisingís ideas; Mr. Reising stated that the fine could be taken care of by Municipal Court with a ticket for the infraction.
 
Councilmember Jackle talked about leniency and grace for sidewalks as well as eyesores and public health hazards. He expressed concern for those that canít afford to fix up their home.
 
Councilmember Stine would like a shorter timeline for those owners who are not interested in taking care of the property, such as banks that do not reply.  Mr. Reising stated that there is certain latitude with a police officer and a building inspector going to look at a home.
 
Mayor Wheeler stated that it appears that we would update the code; go to Unified Appeals Board, then appear in front of the judge.
 
Councilmember Zarosinski questioned the levels of violations; Mr. Reising stated that the building inspector would determine the category of the violation, such as vacant for an extended period of time or other huge issues.
 
Councilmember Bunn questioned what we would do with commercial buildings; Mr. Reising stated that if we go with the code we can use the present language or change according to Councilís decision.
 
Councilmember Jackle would like discretion in the code. Deputy City Attorney McConnell stated that that would be the case of the Unified Appeal Code. Councilmember Bunn questioned the discretion power they would have; Mr. McConnell explained the process based on findings and stated he did not agree with this going to the Municipal Court as the appeal board would have more experience than a prosecutor.
 
Councilmember Bearnson questioned how many of these properties are owned by dead beat banks; Ms. Gish noted that they are listed in the handout. Mr. McConnell stated that the attorney works out a deal with the City if fines are waived. Ms. Taylor noted that several meetings are held with the appeal board. In the new code there is the ability to appeal.
 
Funding source was discussed. Funds from CDBG are only for one year; otherwise the money would come out of the General Fund. Councilmember Bunn questioned how much money it would take to run the program for a year. Chief George noted there is a 77% increase in enforcement but will check the dollar amount. Mr. Barnum stated that options could be adopted for a monthly $100.00 fee or an upfront registration fee.
 
Councilmember Stine would like a shorter time frame, such as six months, but would like something for those that still live in the homes. Councilmember Corcoran questioned what the Police would like best. Sgt. Lane stated that they work with the homeowner for a reasonable time frame to fix the problem. There are those who refuse to come into compliance. Councilmember Corcoran questioned if this will be sufficient for those that are not complying; Sgt. Lane stated that violations are handled case by-case. Police Chief George noted that boarded homes are not good for a neighborhood. Mr. McConnell remarked that you want a code that is proactive. Ms. Gish noted that there are neighborhoods that are concerned with living next to a blighted building. Staff noted that a vacant property ordinance has teeth to it as well and if we cite them hard we get their attention and they want to make the changes.
 
*Councilmember Gordon left at 1:18 p.m.
 
Mr. Swanson noted that he receives calls as well; neighbors are concerned, blighted buildings create an unsafe area for kids and are fire hazards, and this change would give us a lot more certainty to fix these issues.
 
Discussed was adopting by code; Mr. Reising noted that we could also include changes as we want and that the code would also be available on the internet as a pdf.
 
Councilmember Bearnson questioned if there could be incentives to those that flip houses. Mr. Swanson noted that we have been in contact with Habitat for Humanity who is always looking for properties. Mr. Reising noted that Habitat is a licensed contractor and can bid at a reasonable price. They are also free to contact the homeowner before it is lost.
 
There being no further business the meeting adjourned at 1:25 p.m.
 
 
 
Karen M. Spoonts, MMC
Deputy City Recorder
 

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