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Yes. Most cities in Oregon have some kind of right-of-way management policy and charge fees for its use. The League of Oregon Cities has provided model right-of-way ordinances for cities to use and the Oregon City ordinance is based on that model. Many other local governments in the area such as West Linn, Gladstone, and Clackamas County charge right-of-way fees to users.
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The rights-of-way are owned by the City. The responsibility to fund improvements and service for our rights-of-way ultimately rests with the taxpayers. In order to ensure a fair distribution of these costs, the City charges utility customers and others that use the right-of-way rather than passing the costs directly to taxpayers. For example, in September, 2014, Oregon City staff responded to a leak at Clackamas County's Tri-City Wastewater Treatment Plant (OregonLive article). The fee paid by the County helped to cover the City's cost for response.
Utilities are charged a user fee (like a rent) when they use City-owned lands in Oregon City. These fees help the City repair and maintain your public rights-of-way and other spaces. Utilities can pass these costs along to ratepayers. Under this policy, the fee is collected from all users of the rights-of-way, including service districts and utilities. This means that the burden is shared by all users and not just Oregon City taxpayers.
The amount varies based on the kind of utility and how much facilities they use in the right-of-way.
The City charges any user whether they are private (such as Portland General Electric) or public (such as the Tri-City Wastewater Treatment Plant and even the City's own utilities).
Oregon City pays for costs associated with the management, upkeep, and repair of our rights-of-way and public lands. Without a policy to regulate rights-of-way users, utility companies were using the rights-of-way for free, forcing the City to choose between forgoing certain maintenance or pass the costs along to all taxpayers.
This policy spreads costs to utility companies who use the public rights-of-way rather than just all taxpayers. Your utility bill will reflect your utility use. Additions for this policy should be minimal, about the cost of a cup of coffee each month.
Under Oregon City law, this is a "fee." Portland General Electric (PGE) and NW Natural have chosen to label it a "privilege tax" for their purposes. Contact PGE and NW Natural to learn more about their billing language.
The right-of-way user fees are managed through the City's general fund. The Oregon City Commission decides how and where the money is spent.
The Tri-City Service District (TCSD) - which manages sewer treatment services for Oregon City, Gladstone, and West Linn - is contesting the City's ability to charge fees to the District because they feel it is a tax. TCSD is run by Clackamas County, a tax-exempt government entity. The outcome of the case will not affect this policy with regard to private utilities.
You may contact the Right-of-Way Program at 503-974-5521 or by email.