August was a whirlwind month for the Metro Council, with quite a few hot-button issues coming to votes at the regional level.
And that was before recess.
Metro councilors returned Tuesday from a two-week break, ready for the final 16 weeks of work for 2013. Here's a look at the top items on the council's plate for the rest of the year.
5. Blue Heron
Not long ago, this would have been a top priority for Metro. But with a California company now leading the bidding to buy the Blue Heron mill site in downtown Oregon City and Oregon City officials leading the site's overall planning process, Metro's stepped into a supporting role for the Willamette Falls Legacy Project.
Still, Metro figures to have some say as the planning work moves forward, as councilors have prioritized public access to Willamette Falls and economic development for downtown Oregon City.
4. Urban and rural reserves
Every Wednesday, followers of Oregon's land use planning program check the Oregon Court of Appeals' website to see if this is the week that it issues a ruling on the region's landmark urban and rural reserves plan.
And week after week, those followers have been disappointed.
It's been close to a year since the Court of Appeals heard arguments about the reserves plan, adopted by Metro in 2010 and 2011 and finally approved by state regulators in 2012. Many expected the appeals court to issue its ruling on reserves earlier this summer. But few think the wait will extend into 2014.
If the appeals court knocks down some part of the reserves plan, how much work will the Metro Council have to do to put the growth plan back together? And how different would a reserves plan getting approval from the 2013 Metro Council look from the plans that were approved in 2010 and 2011?
3. Climate Smart Communities
It's been a quiet summer for Metro's effort to address a state mandate to reduce tailpipe emissions from passenger cars, as planners have been studying ways to reduce the region's greenhouse gas output.
The curtain comes off the research later this year, as some draft scenarios are released for the Metro Council – and community leaders around the region – to chew over.
Those preliminary results are tentatively set for their big unveil at the Oct. 1 Metro Council work session.
2. Community Investment Initiative and its development program
For years – even before Metro's leadership transition of 2011 – the regional government has pondered how to help spur the development it's spent decades planning. A key part of that effort has been the Community Investment Initiative, a group of private sector leaders, convened by Metro, to figure out how to pay for infrastructure and spur development across the region.
The question seemed tantalizingly simple to answer – the program was initially modeled after a similar, transformative effort in Oklahoma City – but Oregon's political climate made developing such a plan way more complicated.
Leaders have opted to take baby steps on the new development program, the Regional Infrastructure Enterprise, working on some small pilot projects before deciding whether to ramp up to a Phase 2.
The Metro Council will get a look at the business plan for the Regional Infrastructure Enterprise later this year, and will decide whether to formalize a work agreement with the Port of Portland and the Community Investment Initiative.
1. Convention Center Hotel
As Metro continues its shift away from planning for growth and toward trying to spur it, no project has attracted more attention than the proposed $198 million Hyatt hotel near the Oregon Convention Center. Metro would directly contribute $4 million toward the project, and is a key player in the financing discussions, along with Multnomah County and Portland.
The region, county and city jointly control a visitor promotion fund that is being tagged as the support for a $60 million bond to pay for construction of the Hyatt. Analysts, hired by Metro, say room tax money from Hyatt visitors would pay back the bond, and Metro officials say the plan is a fair trade for Hyatt building a hotel next to the OCC, and ensuring that Hyatt keeps hundreds of rooms available for conventions recruited to Portland.
Opponents have argued that the plan is a risky strain on the visitor promotion fund, and that the subsidized Hyatt could drag down room rates, and profits, at hotels city-wide. In the end, the city, county and region all have to agree on the finance plan for the project to move forward.