Following the completion of the Highway 20 and 34 couplet in 2007, it wasn’t long until discussions started to get serious about how to improve the look and feel of Philomath’s downtown corridor.
The then-active Philomath Downtown Association completed a design and business study, and conceptual artist renderings were circulated. By 2011, the city hired an engineering firm and the process moved forward with stakeholder outreach events. When the city failed to receive a key federal transportation grant in 2014, the project was pushed aside for a few years before it resurfaced in 2017 with a new opportunity for funding.
At the time, there were hopes that the streetscape project would be completed by the fall of 2019.
That never happened but the city has maintained its commitment to see the project through to fruition. The latest timeline, shared by City Manager Chris Workman at Monday night’s City Council meeting, shows construction to begin in May 2022 with an estimated completion in November 2023.
Based on community surveys and outreach, a “timber town” theme was preferred over classic/traditional and modern/future.
Workman said the community “pretty overwhelmingly liked the idea of this timber town.”
“I think it sets us apart from the traditional, classical city that looks like everybody else,” Workman said. “I don’t know that we fit a real modern, Beijing kind of look so to speak. The timber town — I think if we do it right, we can keep it ‘gritty’ … but at the same time put some nice oil on that wood, make it shine and make it look really nice to give it that industrial timber feel to it.”
Workman asked for direction from the council on whether or not to continue down the timber town path, possibly doing further surveys within the community.
Officially entitled “The Philomath Downtown Safety and Streetscape Project,” its goals revolve around roadway safety, downtown revitalization on many levels, promoting tourism, improving city systems and bringing it all together with a common theme, right down to the look of street lighting, benches and trash receptacles.
The project area will include Main and Applegate from 14th to Seventh.
“Essentially, Main Street from 14th to 12th is going to get the brightest-colored lipstick,” Workman said. “It’s what’s going to look the nicest, it’s where the most streetscape amenities are going to go. … As you get further west on Main Street, you’ll still have some of those amenities but they’re going to start tapering off as you get further out of town.”
Applegate Street will also see improvements and 13th Street will be its primary connector with Main.
The latest cost estimate stands at $13.4 million. Funding sources include those from the city of Philomath, Oregon Department of Transportation and the Corvallis Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.
“Don’t ask me what street they’re going to start on and finish on, how it’s going to break up, I don’t know yet, it’s to be determined,” Workman said. “Some of that may be dictated by our requests for proposals, some of it will be dictated by the contractor on ways they can do it cost effectively.”
Workman would like to make a final decision on the downtown theme and plans to begin stakeholder meetings on Feb. 25 to finalize pedestrian-scale design elements.
In a related action later in the meeting, the council approved a resolution to take over jurisdiction from Benton County of a stretch of 13th Street between Main and Applegate streets. The move helps the city enter into an agreement with ODOT for street improvements in connection with the streetscapes project.
This spring, Workman anticipates coming back to the City Council to secure funding through street and storm system development charges and finalize CAMPO Statewide Transportation Improvement Program funding.
Councilors asked a few questions in connection with the project, such as the possibility of a final push to gather public input on the theme.
For citizens seeking more information, the city maintains a page on its website dedicated to the project at www.ci.philomath.or.us/downtownstreetscapeproject.
In other news out of the Feb. 8 meeting:
• The council began the evening with a work session at 5:30 p.m. to discuss the Strategic Plan.
• The council through approval of a consent agenda appointed Finance Director Joan Swanson as the city’s 2021-22 budget officer.
• Former mayor Eric Niemann spoke to the council during the visitors and petitions portion of the meeting stressing safety in crosswalks as children begin to head back to school.
• The council approved a resolution to set fees for the city’s building permit program. The fee review was coordinated with the Benton County Board of Commissioners and has an effective date of April 1. The last fee increase for all speciality code and program areas was 2010. Ron Dettrich, Benton County building official, joined Ruth Post, the city’s building permit clerk, to answer questions. No citizens testified during the hearing.
• The council approved an ordinance to vacate a portion of an alleyway between 15th and 16th street. A company plans to build a wine-tasting room at 1529 Main St., and as part of the site design approval, a condition of approval was required for the vacation of the alley between its lot and a lot to the west now owned by Citizens Bank. The applicant, Madeleine Thompson Rudolph, was on hand to provide information. No citizens testified during the public hearing. The ordinance roll-call vote was unanimous, does not require a second reading and becomes effective on March 1.
• Workman provided the council with an overview of where the new water treatment plant construction process stands. The $14.2 million project’s latest timeline shows construction of a new reservoir beginning in July. Construction of the treatment plant would begin in March 2022 with completion three months later.
• The council approved a commitment to pay light bills for street lights that were installed on North 12th Street 2-1/2 years ago by the F Street Road District as a safety measure. The city had made a commitment to that arrangement with the road district. After discussion, the council opted to approve payment for light bills moving forward and up to 50% retroactively for past invoices. Robert Biscoe of the F Street Road District was on hand and contributed to the discussion. Two councilors abstained from the vote for conflict of interest reasons.
• Councilors discussed possible award recipients for Samaritan Awards.
• Councilors provided input on a Philomath Inclusivity Committee application to be finalized to fill at-large seats. Three councilors are currently on the committee and the plan is to add six from the community.
• A portion of the agenda committed to committee and councilor reports extended to about an hour with various topics coming up, including requests to discuss home rule, social media policy and emergency planning, communication between councilors, council direction, public involvement, meeting agenda structure and prioritization, and struggles to come to a consensus on some issues.
• During staff reports, Swanson said the city audit is ongoing with expectations that it will be done by the end of this month. Swanson also reported that the city has been reimbursed $144,000 in COVID-19 grant money to cover various programs implemented last year to help businesses and organizations.
• Prior to the City Council meeting, the Urban Renewal Agency met for 5 minutes to approve minutes from its most recent meeting and to appoint Swanson as the 2021-22 budget officer.
Following is a list of votes taken by the Philomath City Council at its Feb. 8 meeting:
• To approve a consent agenda that included minutes from Jan. 11 and Jan. 25 meetings and the appointment of Joan Swanson as the city’s 2021-22 budget officer. Motion: Andrade. Seconded: Causey. Vote: Passes 7-0 (Yes—Andrade, Biscoe, Causey, Jones, Lehman, Low, Nielson).
• To approve Resolution 21-04 setting fees for the city’s building permit program with an effective date of April 1. Motion: Low. Seconded: Causey. Vote: Passes 7-0 (Yes—Andrade, Biscoe, Causey, Jones, Lehman, Low, Nielson).
• To approve Ordinance 845 to vacate the southern half of the north-south alley right-of-way between 15th Street and 16th Street. Roll-Call Vote: Passes 7-0 (Yes—Andrade, Biscoe, Causey, Jones, Lehman, Low, Nielson).
• To approve future ongoing payments of monthly Pacific Power invoices for street lights on North 12th Street, part of the F Street Road District and retroactively pay up to 50% of past invoices. Motion: Jones. Seconded: Low. Vote: Passes 5-0 (Yes—Andrade, Causey, Jones, Low, Nielson; Absent—Biscoe, Lehman).
• To approve Resolution 21-05 accepting jurisdiction of a segment of 13th Street from Benton County. Motion: Low. Seconded: Nielson. Vote: Passes 7-0 (Yes—Andrade, Biscoe, Causey, Jones, Lehman, Low, Nielson).
URBAN RENEWAL AGENCY
Following is a list of votes taken by the Philomath Urban Renewal Agency at its Feb. 8 meeting:
• To approve minutes from the June 22 meeting. Motion: Low. Seconded: Causey. Vote: Passes 6-0 (Yes—Andrade, Causey, Jones, Lehman, Low, Nielson; Abstained—Biscoe).
• To appoint Joan Swanson as the 2021-22 budget officer under the supervision of the city manager. Motion: Lehman. Seconded: Causey. Vote: Passes 7-0 (Yes—Andrade, Biscoe, Causey, Jones, Lehman, Low, Nielson).