Oregon Senate sides with Metro on Convention Center hotel

Legislature confirms Metro is allowed to pursue publicly-funded projects without securing a public vote.

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Metro scored a win in the battle over a publicly-funded hotel near the Convention Center when the Oregon Senate voted in favor of a bill that would clear the path to construction.

A group of downtown hoteliers has stalled the project by pursuing litigation that would call for a public vote before the project gets final approval. The Senate voted 20-10 allowing Metro to build without a public vote.

“The Oregon Convention Center hotel project is a fantastic opportunity to create 3,000 jobs, boost the state’s tourism economy, and leverage private investment in the metropolitan region,” said bill sponsor Sen. Chuck Riley (D-Hillsboro) in the Portland Tribune. “An independent analysis cited by Metro shows that this project will generate $5.6 million in new state tax revenues and $4.7 in new local tax revenues annually. These are revenues that will help support our schools, our public safety, and future economic development endeavors.”

From the PT:

Metro, Portland’s elected regional government, argues that a 600-room hotel with special features to appeal to convention-goers will increase the number of large conventions held at the center every year. The proposal calls for the hotel to be privately built, owned and operated, but subsidized with public construction and operating funds. Metro plans to sell $60 million in revenue bonds to help pay for the construction, and an additional $18 million in other public grants and loans have been identified for the project. The development team will put up the rest of the money.

Opponents include several Portland-area hotel owners, who argue that the project puts the public at risk financially. Metro President Tom Hughes says they simply don’t want the competition. The opponents challenged Metro’s authority to help finance the hotel in both the Multnomah and Clackamas county courts. Judges in both countries ruled in Metro’s favor, but the opponents appealed those decisions to the Oregon Court of Appeals.

Despite the litigation, the hotel has been going through the permitting process, OregonLive.com reports.

The opponents launched a two-pronged attack on project, petitioning in Multnomah County for a referendum and challenging in Clackamas County Court Metro’s authority to build a hotel.

Judges in both cases sided with Metro, and the cases are on appeal. The Senate bill would effectively settle the issue of Metro’s authority, but opponents could still push for a referendum.

Although construction was slated to begin this summer, it is unclear if that projection is still on track.

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