A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Is this project really necessary?

Written February 16th, 2015 by Hasso Hering
A wide walking and bike path, a convenient ditch: What is there to improve?

A wide walking and bike path, a convenient ditch: What is there to improve?

On a sunny and warm mid-winter day, a bike ride over the top of Valley View Drive and down Crocker Lane put me in mind of — what else? — an action by the Albany City Council last week. And I’m wondering whether the council really thinks it’s necessary to make two road improvements for which adjoining property owners may get billed more than $1.7 million.

What the council did on Feb. 11 was to accept the public works department’s engineering and financial investigation reports for sections of Crocker and Valley View and to call a public hearing for March 11. The city staff is proposing to improve Crocker to city standards from Meadow Wood Drive north to Valley View, and to build a multi-use path on the south side of Valley View from Crocker 870 feet west.

Crocker would end up with two 11-foot-wide travel lanes, 6-foot bike lanes and 6-foot sidewalks at a cost so far estimated at $1,462,000, which would be assessed against about 190 lots. Depending on how much the city contributes from street-related reserves, individual assessments would range from $4,700 to $7,600. That would be $54 to $87 per month over 10 years. The Valley View path expense was estimated at $260,000, which translates to $1,429 per lot (affecting about 180 lots) or $16 per lot per month. If the city goes ahead and does the project, it won’t know the actual costs until the projects are bid, completed and paid for, at which time the property owners would get the bill.

Looking at these projects from on top of a bike, I can see a reason for the extra path along Valley View. There’s no shoulder there to speak of, and if people want to walk there, cars have to go around them. (The path would not be necessary if, as proposed, an adjoining woodland is donated to Benton County and a walkway is built through the trees.)

Crocker is completely different. It already is lined with well paved 6-foot bike lanes on both sides, and since the grade is steep and bike traffic rare, that is more than sufficient for any kind of nonmotorized travel. On its west side, Crocker also has a shallow ditch, more than adequate to carry away runoff naturally without the need to build storm drains, avoiding the treatment expense that this may some day entail.

With conditions so ideal already, why does the city want to build costly “improvements”? Two reasons, as far as I can see: The city transportation systems plan calls for city streets there (with curbs, sidewalks, bike lanes and storm drains), and developers of nearby subdivisions signed waivers saying future owners of lots would not object to assessments, and the waivers will expire over the next few years.

But you’d think that the first question should be: Regardless of plans and expiring waivers, does spending this kind of money make sense? Given the location near the north city limits, where no great increase in traffic can be expected, and the existing conditions, which are good for motorists and great for walkers and cyclists, the answer on Crocker is no, it does not make sense.

Maybe those property owners can think of a better way to spend that $1.46 million. And as for whatever cash the council ends up contributing, it might want to save it for some solution on Gibson Hill that allows Crocker traffic to get to town during the morning rush. (hh)

11 responses to “Is this project really necessary?”

  1. Roger says:

    Have the lots already been sold and houses built with individual owners living on those lots?

  2. James Carrick says:

    Sounds like more “make work” and job security for city staff. Stewards of the public trust? HA….

    I wonder how many of these homeowners that will be assessed can afford the bill? I don’t think the council cares. They’re spending OUR money because they can……..and that’s reason enough for them.

    Until this stops I’m not voting “Yes” on ANY City of Albany bond measure for anything. I’m mad as hell about this. COMPLETELY unnecessary. I urge everyone to JUST SAY NO to the City of Albany.

  3. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Interesting. When one small business wants Albany city government to pay $2.6M for road improvements that benefit only the small business, the council has no problem forking over the money.

    When Albany city government wants to spend $1.46M to “improve” a road they default to forcing an LID on the impacted private property owners. There is a better way.

    For every road improvement where the city wants to fund it through an LID or a direct grant, the city should circulate a petition among the impacted private property owners. If a majority of impacted private property owners sign, then the LID or direct grant is placed on the ballot. City voters should have the final say on these types of expenditures.

  4. Shawn Dawson says:

    Sounds like the owners of the 190 lots need to get together, find where they stand in respect to wanting or not wanting the improvements, put the results in writing (both for and against to be fair) deliver this to the city and follow up. Perhaps a few of the impacted home owners should take this on. If the results are 90/10 agains then it may be hard for the city to ignore. If the results are more 50/50 then who knows.

    Quite some time ago in the early 80’s, in Jefferson, something similar happened were my parents and our neighbor were told they would have to pay for sidewalks along their property (they each owned a large lot, so the two lots were an entire block). They are situated about a block from the elementary school, and the city said kids need a sidewalk for safety.

    However, both my parents and our older, retired neighbor, are outside a lot. They both observed that even though they were a block from the school, no kids every walked in front of their houses on the way to or from school. There was no reason to, their houses weren’t in a path to go anywhere. So they documented that fact, that while though it sounded good to put in the sidewalk, the reality was that it was not a travelled path for kids going to or from school (and it still is not even today).

    To the city’s credit, they listened to the two impacted home owners, and then changed the the plan to add the sidewalks. The sidewalk is still not in today, 30 years later, and there is still very little foot traffic by their houses, and no traffic related to kids travelling to school.


    • Hasso Hering says:

      In this case, the city has waivers of remonstrance, meaning land owners or developers signed way their right to object to the formation of a local improvement and assessment district. The reason the city staff initiated this project now is that the waivers will expire over the next few years. (hh)

  5. Jim Engel says:

    Improve just Crocker Ln.??!! N. Albany Rd, Gibson Hill Rd, the south part of Scenic Dr., Thorton Lake Dr & Valley View Dr are all roads that need improvement. A bit of poor foresight years by the respective government thinkers/planners to not anticipate the tremendous growth in N. Albany. The listed roads should have had provisions in place to up grade them as development progressed. What’s up there now is a mess. For drivers, walkers, bicyclists. It sure won’t be the original developers who have already banked their money. JE

  6. tom cordier says:

    Of course it is not necessary–like lots of stuff the city staff and city manager do to stay busy, justifying their employment and the phony budget cmte does not change it nor does the council.

    • Amy says:

      I am a homeowner who is going to be billed for these “improvements”, and I am livid. I received a certified letter from the city this weekend letting me know that I’m obliged to pay approximately 10K out of pocket for them. However, I have the option to make payments over 10 years at a 6.8% interest rate…this is obscene! I purchased my house in November 2014, and I NEVER would have made the purchase if I knew this was coming.

      There is a meeting at the City Hall on 3/11 about this issue. I implore those who do not support these upgrades or have questions about them to come and share your thoughts on the matter.

  7. Joyce says:

    This is frightening, can it happen to any homeowner? I wonder how many foreclosures this will result cause. It is a huge unexpected and out of reach expense for most people.

  8. Sarah says:

    Yes, all of the previously developed lots have sold. I live in one of them and this waiver was not disclosed to us. So this is a complete blindside for my husband and me. And all but one of our neighbors.


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