Town center, spec building among highlights in Oregon

Kelly J. Kaczala

         Oregon is in great shape, according to City Administrator Joel Mazur.
        He spoke at the annual “State of the Communities” meeting at Mercy Health - St. Charles Hospital, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, on Friday, Jan. 27. Mazur looked at the highlights of 2022, and discussed plans for this year.
        “The biggest thing that happened in Oregon last year was a big shift in personnel,” he said. Not only his position, but the city saw a new fire chief, finance director, and director of the Economic Development Foundation. The year before, a new police chief.
        “When you have that much change in personnel at the executive level, you’re bound to have a culture shift just in the change of personnel and personalities,” he said.
        “Oregon has always had a good team,” he said. “I like to tell people we’re building a team that is the equivalent of the 1990 Bulls championship team – arguably the greatest team in sports history. And that’s because that’s the expectation. We’re going to build a good culture, we have a good staff, we’re going to move the city forward.”
        On the development side, Mazur said one of the things that always gets overlooked is the start of the construction of a 100,000 square foot industrial spec building. “That’s a developer and company taking a risk. It’s their money. They believe something good is going to happen in Oregon. I think it’s always good to point out that we’re building.”
        He also noted that the city completed the construction of a road and the installation of utilities in Wynnscape, the city’s industrial park.
        “We built the utilities - sewer, water and road - robust enough so it could handle the industrial traffic. The expectation is we’re going to have some industrial leads that come in. There are a lot of prospects coming to Oregon,” he said.
        The city also created an Advanced Manufacturing Zoning designation last year.
        “It’s significant, because in the industrial world, you have to have parameters, but you also have to listen to the public, because that’s who we serve, too.” The district provides a buffer and a softer look to the industrial landscape.
        “The perception of some people is that industry is ugly. And having a designation like this creates some industrial standards that are a little softer, and makes it look a little nicer. We’re looking at rezoning some properties right now in the industrial park with the Advanced Manufacturing Zoning designation.”
        The city made some significant improvements along Navarre Avenue, he said.
        “You can see the medians. It’s a safety thing. It looks good. And it gives a look of `Welcome to Oregon,’ it’s new, nice and safe.”
Town Center
        One of the biggest projects in Oregon that continues to evolve is the town center.
        “We created a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) district in partnership with the schools.” A TIF is a public financing tool, available to local governments in Ohio, to finance public infrastructure improvements. It captures the increase in property taxes, and sometimes other taxes, resulting from new development, and diverts that revenue to subsidize that development.
        “We closed on a piece of property in which the developer is going to build 208 apartments on the site. We will have vertical construction this year. And we created partial road construction,” he said.
        In building a town center, there is one thing to keep in mind, he said, and that’s patience.
        “This development is going to be a transformational change. So the expectation is that we don’t settle. So this could take a little longer to build this out to get exactly what we want. If we build it the wrong way – you don’t get a second chance. Maybe another generation, but not this generation. So we’re not going to settle. We’re going to do what we can to make it the best project.”
        The city also completed the construction of a new fire station. “It’s massive. It looks good. It’s built to a standard that Oregon deserves,” said Mazur.
        In recreation, the city saw the highest participation in recreation programs in the city’s history.
        “We have had a lot of people coming back to the programs and we’re looking to do more, to reintroduce some of the non-sports and non-ball and bat programs. So we should have more programming coming up this year,” he said.
Income tax collection
        The city had the highest income tax collection year in its history.
        “There are a lot of variables and factors that go into that, but people are getting hired, working and staying employed, and wages are going up, so there are a lot of contributing factors. Good news for us.”
        For this year, plans call for “finishing what we started,” he said.
        “If 2022 was the year of breaking eggs, 2023 will be the year of making omelettes,” said Mazur.
        He is going to focus on updating the city master plan, which hasn’t been updated in 20 years.
        “The industry standard is to update it every five to 10 years.”
        “It’s a good way to get with the public and get some input. When we get this process started, I would love to see all of you contribute. There will be ways to do that: through surveys, public meetings, things like that. What would people like to see in Oregon? Whether it’s more residential, more industrial or less industrial, we want to hear about it,” said Mazur.
Leads and RFIs
        “We’ll continue with filling out the leads and Requests For Information (RFI) so that we can attract a business to the industrial property. With the town center, we keep hitting milestones. We closed on the one property, we’re working on another residential piece, and the old Kmart property, too. That really is the centerpiece. We are honing in on our final site plan with our developer out of Cleveland. We’ll get an update on what to expect at our council meeting on Feb. 6 at 6 p.m. in council chambers.”
        Other highlights noted by Mazur:
        •He met with a prospect who is looking at the old fire station building. “If we land something like this, people won’t be disappointed. If they are, something is wrong with them.”
        • He will be evaluating the structure of the fire department, making sure there are adequate staffing levels.
        •He plans to reintroduce a K-9 unit in the police division. The last dog retired. “My recommendation will be two, but stagger them every four years,” he said.
        •The city will be featured in the March edition of Business View magazine that will note its accomplishments.
Clerk of courts
        Bernie Quilter, clerk of courts in Lucas County, said at the meeting that statistics compiled by his office last year show a bleak view of how things are going in Lucas County in general.
        “Last year, court cases went up. Foreclosures started going up. We went from 321 to 736 foreclosures. That’s not breaking news, but that’s a big increase in foreclosures just in one year,” said Quilter.
        “Divorce went down, domestic violence went up, and auto titles took a big dip,” he said.
        “We went from 118,000 titles back down to 108,000 titles we issued last year. At the same time, the cost of new vehicles went up $2,000, and $5,000 more for a dealer used vehicle. We’re seeing a turn in the economy. Court cases going up, and auto sales going down is an indication we’re headed in the wrong direction. Usually, when auto sales are up and court cases go down, we’re in a great economy. My office is a great reflection of where we’re at. Let’s hope this is just a little jiggle in the economy and that things will come back together.”


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