Happy Valley / NCPRD Lawsuit
Did a Jury award the return of $18 million dollars to the City of Happy Valley for parks?
On Friday August 16, 2019 a Clackamas County jury awarded the return of $18,078,238 to the City of Happy Valley.
What was the lawsuit about?
When Happy Valley residents voted in favor of joining NCPRD in 2006, both parties signed a contract requiring development fees paid by City homeowners to be transferred from the City to the District for exclusive use on park projects in Happy Valley. The County terminated the contract, didn’t deliver the projects, and kept the money the City had transferred.
Is the City asking for any money contributed by other parts of the district?
The City only asked for development fees pay by Happy Valley homeowners that were transferred from the City to the District for exclusive use on park projects. None of the funds that were awarded to be returned come from Milwaukie or the unincorporated areas of the district.
What will the City do with the money?
The City is committed to using these funds exclusively for the park projects that were promised to the voters when the City joined NCPRD. Those projects include a community park, community center, all-weather turf fields, and completion of the Mt. Scott Trail. The City recognizes that parks are shared by everyone in the community, including those outside Happy Valley. Any future investments in new parks will remain open to everyone.
Were my tax dollars being used by both sides for this lawsuit?
The City of Happy Valley used tax dollars to fight for the residents of Happy Valley to ensure local funds came back to the community. Because the SDCs were collected in Happy Valley and NCPRD agreed to use those funds “exclusively” on park projects inside Happy Valley, the City felt it was important to stand up for that agreement and those funds. NCPRD also used its resources, including those provided by Happy Valley residents, to fund this lawsuit to prevent the SDCs collected in Happy Valley from being spent in Happy Valley.
Why did it get to the point of a lawsuit?
The decision to file a lawsuit against Clackamas County was not taken lightly by the City Council.
The decision came after years of trying to work collaboratively with NCPRD to use the funds received from Happy Valley on local park projects as agreed to when the City joined the district.
In the months since the decision was made to withdraw, the City has tried to negotiate with NCPRD to return the funds received from Happy Valley back to the City. The City would like to use the funds to provide the parks projects that were originally agreed to by NCPRD and the City. While we went into those negotiations optimistic and in good faith, they did not result in an outcome that was fair to the residents of Happy Valley. In the end, NCPRD unilaterally terminated the agreement then refused to return the SDCs.
As a last resort, the City Council determined the only way forward was to file an official complaint in Circuit Court. We had hoped our withdrawal from NCPRD could remain amicable and we are disappointed the terms of the agreement couldn’t have been settled out of court.
When and why did Happy Valley join NCPRD?
In 2005, Happy Valley was a much smaller city. Recognizing that the community was growing, the City and NCPRD entered into an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) that outlined a strategy to build new parks in Happy Valley. The IGA identified four Capital Projects that would be prioritized and built in the community. Those include:
1. A community park in the Rock Creek area (east Happy Valley);
2. An all-weather turf on an existing soccer field at Happy Valley City Park or other mutually agreeable location;
3. Completion of Mt. Scott Creek Trail in Happy Valley; and
4. A community recreation center.
The promise of these facilities was encouraging to city leaders and community members, and the City Council approved the IGA with the specific understanding that SDCs raised in the City would be spent on park projects in the City. In fact, the thought of these amenities in Happy Valley is still an exciting vision. It’s this vision that has led the City to withdraw from NCPRD in an effort to move the projects forward.
What are System Development Charges (SDCs)?
One of the guiding principles many citizens expect is that growth should pay for growth. SDCs are often used as the tool to achieve this goal. They are one-time fees assessed on new homes, apartment buildings, commercial centers, and other developments. There are different SDCs for transportation, water, sewer, stormwater, and parks facilities. The rates are set to cover a portion, if not all, of the improvements necessary to those facilities to mitigate the increased demand from growth. In the case of parks, SDC funds are intended to go towards new parks and recreation facilities, based on an adopted Capital Improvement Plan detailing eligible projects.