The city of Pendleton hasn’t been hesitant to use financial incentives to try to reinvigorate the city’s housing industry, but one developer is crying foul over how the city chooses to dole them out.
Pendleton Triangle Apartments developer Nate Brusselback used the public comment section of the Pendleton City Council meeting Tuesday to lambaste the council for giving incentives to other housing development while skipping his own and calling on the city to create a uniform incentive system it could apply to all future housing developments.
“From my point of view, your system is broken, it’s unfair, it’s anti-competitive and I’m asking city council to fix it,” he told the council as he read from prepared remarks.
“Consider some sort of incentive package for my project,” he said. “Some way to show that the city of Pendleton welcomes all investors and entrepreneurs and can work with them rather than drive them away.”
According to Brusselback, the $4 million, 25-unit apartment complex he’s finishing near Southwest Hailey Avenue offers more to the community than some of the developments the city has backed.
Brusselback mentioned the Westgate Apartments project, a planned 200-unit complex that could have some of its property taxes reimbursed by the city based on its vacancy rate, and Pendleton Heights, a mixed-use development that has had some of its infrastructure costs fronted by the city.
But he trained much of his critique on the Bowman Building, the downtown building that’s undergoing renovations to convert office space into 18 apartment units.
Acting as the Pendleton Development Commission, the council granted the project $340,928 to cover some of the costs of construction.
Brusselback said the series of studio and one-bedroom apartments at Bowman would not have the same economic impact as the two and three-bedroom units, which could attract higher earners with more disposable income.
“We the taxpayer are paying the very most for the thing that gives the community the very least,” he said.
Brusselback argued that the city should bestow incentives on his project, suggesting that the city could convert part of the property tax payments he will make in the next 10 years into a water and sewer bill credit.
And unlike some of the other projects the city has funded, Brusselback said Pendleton Triangle isn’t merely a proposal.
“This is not some hypothetical project that might never get built where the taxpayer takes on the risk upfront,” he said. “It isn’t a ‘road to nowhere,’ or a taxpayer-funded sewer line or street that may or may not get apartments someday. I have taken all the risk upfront. The complex is real, it’s here and it’s expanded tax base can be measured and its economic benefit can be felt.”
He also suggested the city adopt a standardized incentive program that any developer can meet, which would prevent the city from picking “winners and losers.”
After finishing his speech, Brusselback added that he has struggled to fill all of his units, and although the complex isn’t complete, some units are “collecting dust.”
Pendleton Triangle held its grand opening in November, and at the time, units were being advertised for $1,495 per month.
The council’s response to Brusselback’s arguments was muted.
Councilor Paul Chalmers clarified that the grant given to the Bowman Building was from the urban renewal district and would not have been applicable to Pendleton Triangle.
Councilor Scott Fairley was the only member who seemed receptive to one of Brusselback’s ideas.
“I think it would be a good conversation to have either with the housing committee or a workshop with the council to talk about the benefits of a uniform incentive program for housing,” he said. “So that when developers come, they know ahead of time, ‘When I deliver on x, I’m gonna get y.’ And it’s the same for everybody and it’s equal and all developers are treated the same.”
But Mayor John Turner pushed back against a standardized incentive program, saying that each development was different and the city didn’t want to adopt a “cookie cutter approach.”