Two Pendleton business owners want the residents of southwest Ninth Street to help bear the costs of improving the road, but property owners across the street are proving resistant.

Business owners Dusty Pace and Toby Carlson plan to build a tire shop and auto center on the street and want to use a local improvement district to spread the cost of paving the gravel road, adding sidewalks and other improvements equally among all the property owners.

According to a city staff report, the project has an estimated cost of $97,224.

Because Pace and Carlson’s property covers the entire west side of the street, they would pay the largest share of the costs at $46,785.

The other six property owners of the seven plots on the eastern side of Ninth would pay between $3,260 and $16,382, depending on how much frontage space their property occupies.

In order for a district to be established, the city council and more than 50 percent of the property owners, on a square foot basis, must approve it.

The city council was supposed to vote on the district at Tuesday’s meeting, but city engineer Tim Simon’s failure to announce the first reading of the ordinance at a meeting last month meant that the council hosted a public hearing but did not take action.

During the hearing, Simons shared letters from some of the eastside residents, none of whom supported the project.

Many cited the financial hardship the project would put upon them.

“I am not able to pay for it to be done,” wrote Diana Phipps, owner and resident of a Ninth Street property. “My husband Bill passed away after a long battle (with) liver illness. He had to stop working and close his business in Dec. 2009. I had to have our property taxes deferred because we did not have the income anymore.”

Councilors Becky Marks and John Brenne showed unease over how Phipps and other residents would be able to pay the costs of the district.

Chris Burford, the city’s legal counsel, said the council could set a low payment rate over a period of up to 30 years as a part of approving the district.

Raymond Dusenberry was the only plot owner to attend the hearing and expressed concern that the project would raise property taxes, forcing him to raise rental fees for his tenants or lose money on the properties.

Simons said any road or sidewalk improvements made under a district would not raise property tax rates at their next assessment.

Pace was the sole person to publicly support the district, which he preferred over just paving his half of the street.

While Pace holds the minority opinion, he could get his wish regardless.

Even though Ninth Street resident Michele Settle wrote a letter disapproving of the district, the previous owner of the property signed an irrevocable consent agreement with the city in 1986, meaning Settle’s vote is automatically counted as an affirmative regardless of her opinion.

With 56 percent of property owners by square footage approving the district, the council is the last hurdle for Pace and Carlson.

Councilman Neil Brown said it would be a difficult decision when the council votes on the ordinance at its next meeting, but ultimately touted the benefits of a district.

“The idea is that it’s not only outlay, it’s investment,” he said.

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Contact Antonio Sierra at asierra@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0836.

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