News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Gates secures $120K for downtown development

Reporter for The Canyon Weekly

Marion County has set aside $120,000 for the City of Gates to develop a plan for a downtown business district as part of ongoing efforts to recover from the 2020 wildfires.

On Wednesday, Jan. 11, the Marion County Board of Commissioners approved an agreement to reimburse the city up to $120,000 for the use of a consultant to draft a Business District Development Plan and prepare for any necessary zoning amendments.

The Gates City Council already approved the agreement Dec. 15, 2022. Councilor and Mayor-elect Brian Gander told commissioners being able to identify opportunities and obstacles within the city will help address the right challenges in the right order.

“We’re excited about this opportunity,” said Gander.

He said Gates has struggled to recover in part due to the limited sewer capacity in town, which prevents the construction of multifamily housing. Gates is currently part of efforts to build a regional sewer system through the North Santiam Sewer Authority, which expects to see a system come online in the next four-to-six years.

Without knowing how many families live in town, Gander said it is difficult to know what types of businesses to attract, and working with a consultant can help identify how to address and plan around such challenges.

“I believe we can develop a vision around that in the next six-to-eight months,” he said.

Gander said another challenge will be convincing residents and fellow officials that the state-backed project will be beneficial, as many in Gates see government intervention as overreach.

“Governance can really help you when you get put between a rock and a hard place,” said Gander. “You have to build back faith in that.”

Commissioner Danielle Bethell said she looks forward to seeing the plan take shape, as Gates has been met with exceptional struggles as the region rebuilds from the wildfires of September 2020.

“Gates has been the one community, in the work I’m doing, that has struggled the most to recover,” she said.

With the agreement approved, the city can now form a committee to draft and publish a request for proposals, then evaluate and approve a potential consultant. A finalized contract with a consultant is expected by mid-2023.

This funding has been part of larger efforts to help cities like Gates rebuild after it was destroyed during the fires. Gates and Detroit were included in a 2021 county program to help city officials develop a Community Vision and Strategic Plan that would set initial steps for revitalization.

The plan drafted by Gates led to a focus on development of downtown, and in summer of 2022 the city worked with the Marion County Economic Development Department to craft an agreement allowing the county to help fund these efforts. The final agreement set aside $120,000 from Oregon Lottery funds, and the city will be reimbursed for no greater than that amount after filing monthly itemized expenses for the project.

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