The city of Echo is still getting its ducks in a row to potentially welcome a major development on the north side of the city.
The proposed 132-acre development could include as many as 48 homes, a hotel, RV park, commercial and industrial projects and ampitheater.
Developer Kent Madison briefly shared a master plan for the Northgate project at a Thursday city council meeting, but said he doesn’t want to pull the trigger on it unless zoning, system development charges, annexation into the city and other issues are worked out and the project pencils out financially.
The property — currently dryland wheat — sits along Thielsen Street between the Interstate 84 interchange and the Echo Heights subdivision. Madison is proposing the project be annexed into the city and zoning to be adjusted to allow for commercial and residential development on the west side and light industrial to the east.
The zoning would be subject to approval by Oregon’s Land Conservation and Development Commission.
“What I don’t want to do is have this master plan, purchase the property and then have LCDC say ‘No, you can’t have that,’” Madison said.
City administrator Diane Berry said they may have to do some trade-outs, or agree to higher-density residential development, but city staff could assist Madison in putting together the application.
Madison does not own the property yet, but said he has an agreement with the owner to buy it if the Northgate project is deemed feasible. He has already invested significant money into engineering reports and other due diligence and has been meeting with the Oregon Department of Transportation on what changes would be needed to Thielsen Street, which leads into Echo from Stanfield.
During Thursday’s meeting Ed Hibbard of Anderson Perry engineering firm presented a system development charge study that sets the groundwork for the city to be able to charge system development fees on new developments. System development charges on new developments can be used to pay for new infrastructure such as water lines or to reimburse cities for infrastructure that was already built with extra capacity in anticipation of future growth.
Based on complex calculations about Echo’s current infrastructure and future needs, Hibbard said Echo could justifiably charge $13,060 per “equivalent residential unit,” or the amount of water and sewer capacity that one house would typically use. The number of equivalent residential units that the Northgate project comes out to would depend on what type of commercial and industrial projects the development attracts.
Berry said Echo was probably one of the last cities in Oregon to implement system development charges because “nothing” has been happening in Echo development-wise so it wasn’t really needed.
“Basically, your potential development spurred the change,” she told Madison.
The city council will vote at a future meeting on whether the city will charge the amount listed in the Anderson Perry report or, like most cities, reduce that number so it doesn’t present as much of a barrier to development.
After the meeting Madison said that Echo was “moving in the right direction” as far as laying the groundwork for new development and even if in the end the Madisons decide not to go forward with the project they will feel like they helped the city prepare for other future development.
“It’s moving slower than we’d like, but that’s OK,” he said.
He said they hoped to move on the project within six to eight months.
Madison said they were working closely with the city and keeping residents in the loop because they don’t want to do something that everyone will be opposed to. The Northgate project will be a “great asset” to add to the city’s tax rolls, he said, but he is also aware that it will be a big change to the town of just over 700 people.
“It looks encouraging to us,” he said of the city’s support. “It’s an interesting development because it’s a completely blank slate. It’s a great opportunity for the city to say, ‘What do we want Echo’s main entrance into town to be?’”