Molalla City Council and staff have been spending the last several weeks setting priorities for 2023 through a series of work sessions and meetings.
Specific goals for the city are based on the Molalla Area Vision and Action Plan, which established five focus areas to tackle in the next decade.
The first focus area centers around making Molalla a more resilient community. For 2023, this includes promoting diversity, equity and inclusion opportunities, updating the Parks Master Plan, as well include updates for Chief Yelkus Park, a skate park and future ball fields, and establishing a park-naming policy.
The second focus area centers around keeping Molalla a welcoming, friendly, vibrant community with an attractive “hometown feel.” For 2023, council staff set establishing a kiosk map and a traffic unit as top priorities.
Focus Area 3 focuses include keeping the city economically sound with a diversity of businesses, partnerships, educational opportunities and innovation. City and staff set plans for a new library facility, an industrial/business park and nurturing better civic education as top priorities for 2023.
Focus Area 4 centers on making Molalla a “full-service hub of resources.” For 2023, this means updating the city’s emergency management plan.
Focus Area 5 includes keeping Molalla a “beautiful tranquil area where people are deeply connected to its natural features.” For 2023, this means establishing new architectural standards, incorporating art into the new police facility and finalizing the city’ mural code.
Molalla City Council recently had a work session on Feb. 8 to expand on these focus areas and corresponding priorities.
Here are some of the key takeaways:
Several council members, most notably Council President Jody Newland, brought up a lack of civic education and engagement as a major issue in the community. She proposed setting up a series of public town halls to educate the community on how their city government works.
“Our local politics isn’t usually discussed as much in the education of our schools,” she said, “They talk about our state government and our national government, but this is kind of the one that’s more directly impacting.”
Light up Molalla
Councilor Crystal Robles noted that there are several areas in Molalla that are “very dark” and suggested either communicating with Portland General Electric and NW Natural Gas or setting up a committee to figure out a way to light up these areas while also being cost-effective.
Molalla Mayor Scott Keyser suggested hanging up white string lights in the city parks to give them a more “warm and inviting glow.”
Renaming Molalla Forest road to Chief Yelkus Road
Newland proposed renaming the segment of road outside Chief Yelkus Park from Molalla Forest Road to Chef Yelkus Road.
“So people know it’s not a continuation of the same road and that they can’t drive through there,” she said.
Council decided to revisit this item in a work session to figure out a policy on renaming roads.
The lack of food carts and late-night dining options in Molalla is something that’s been perplexing Molalla city officials for years.
Councilor Eric Vermillion described the food card scene as “an industry that is struggling in Molalla, and has not established itself the way it has in other places … I would like any industry to come into Molalla, period, but I think this is one we could maybe do a better job at encouraging.”
Keyser suggested the city look into its system development charges for food carts, which right now are at $8,000 per space. He also noted that cities like Estacada, which is half the population size of Molalla, have a much more robust food cart scene.
“It’s about figuring out what to do to make it more palatable and get someone to come here and open something,” he said. “Whether it’s SDCs that need to be lowered or if SDCs need to be off the table.”
Keyser requested the issue be discussed in a separate work session to learn about what other city policies are around food carts and fees.
Renting city fields
Councilors are considering establishing fees for renting city fields and other public spaces.
“It takes a lot of time and energy for city staff to put together who gets the fields and when,” Keyser said.
City recorder Christie Teets cautioned councilors to proceed with this plan.
“If we charge any group, then we have to charge all groups … it’s more complex than just charging one group,” she said. “If you decide to go down the road for one, you’ll have to go down the road for all.”