CITIZENS, OFFICIALS DISCUSS FUNDING FOR URBAN RENEWAL
By BRIAN BULLOCK
How much money should the city of Brookings spend on parking lots, streetscapes, streets and utilities, parks, or pedestrian and bike paths?
That question was hashed out Thursday by citizens, city councilors, city staff and consultant Charles Kupper in an urban renewal plan meeting at City Hall.
It was one of the final structural meetings of the series before the plan will be adopted and put into practice.
One more meeting to discuss a draft of the renewal agency structure and its activities is tentatively scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, June 24. After that, the urban renewal plan will be reviewed by the Planning Commission and City Council and be officially adopted.
At the Thursday meeting, Kupper explained, in general terms, about how much money the tax increment funding would generate for urban renewal. Kupper offered two scenarios, one that would generate $10 million and another that would generate $8 million.
The $10 million would allow for nearly $16 million in maximum indebtedness and would be retired in 25 years. The second would create approximately $11 million in maximum indebtedness and would be retired within 20 years.
Kupper said whatever the choices the Urban Renewal Agency makes, the projects taken on by the agency will be controlled by the amount of money the tax increment income will generate.
andquot;All of this stuff is by guess and by golly,andquot; Kupper explained. andquot;We've tried to be realistic in our estimates. I feel we're being fairly conservative in these estimates.andquot; Kupper's models accounted for 3 percent increase in the tax base as allowed by law and included anticipated development of some ocean front property. The renewal agency will borrow on projected tax increment income and that would generate the $10 million over the 25-year period.
The largest percentage of money will be put toward street improvements, public utilities, downtown development and redevelopment, the group decided Thursday. While all aspects of urban renewal projects were discussed, parking was at the forefront of the talk.
A number of downtown business people expressed an interest in additional parking. The city is in the process of constructing a public parking lot at the intersection of Fern Street and Chetco Avenue.
Urban renewal funds will be allocated to public parks and open space, streets and public utilities, streetscapes, pedestrian and bike trails. Funds will also go toward transit improvements, other public facilities, public parking, development and redevelopment, low interest loan rates and development incentives, preservation and rehabilitation of existing buildings, and program administration.
Kupper's model of revenue allocation for renewal projects earmarked 10 percent of urban renewal income to public parking facilities.
City manager Leroy Blodgett suggested a larger percentage be put toward streets and utilities because of their high cost. That left a smaller percentage of money for parking and streetscape (beautification) projects.
andquot;Streets and utilities are expensive items. I don't think you'll have a problem spending all of that money,andquot; Blodgett said.
The streets and utilities projects include improvements to Railroad, Fern, Willow, Spruce, Hemlock, Alder and Wharf streets, and Chetco Avenue. Many of those streets will become downtown core streets if a couplet is ever designed along Railroad Street.
Also, a number of those streets were in the Downtown Master Plan's garden commercial district, which would turn some into pedestrian walkways.
One audience member said if the goal of the Downtown Master Plan was to create a more pedestrian-friendly downtown, the city wouldn't need added parking that some were demanding.
Kupper said that given the tax increment funds that are projected in Brookings, he thought smaller projects would give the renewal agency more bang for the buck.
andquot;From what I hear, parking projects seem to be an early priority,andquot; Kupper said. andquot;Given the condition of downtown, I think you're going to have to do smaller projects. I think you should concentrate early on smaller cosmetic programs.andquot; Both Kupper and Blodgett said some of the larger projects probably will not be addressed by urban renewal. Relocation of City Hall and construction of a new community center are too costly for urban renewal funds to finance.
andquot;There's not enough money in all of urban renewal to fund those. So we will have to look for other (funding) sources there,andquot; Blodgett said.
He said urban renewal funds could be used to help secure grant funding for larger projects like those.
Several participants asked about the City Council serving dual roles as both council and urban renewal agency. They wondered aloud if the city would favor street renewal projects over other more general beautification projects.
Kupper said of the 40 renewal agencies with which he is familiar, the majority use city councilors as urban renewal agency members.
andquot;Overwhelmingly the governing body is the City Council or county commission,andquot; Kupper explained. andquot;I only know of three, Portland, Medford, and one other, that have independent renewal agencies.andquot; Blodgett said the Downtown Development Committee would serve as an advisory board to the urban renewal agency here.
Kupper also showed where the tax increment financing will come from. A number of city, county and regional agencies will forgo increases in tax revenue during the life of the urban renewal plan. Of them, only the educational organizations such as the 17-C School District will not forgo tax-based funding income.
andquot;The way our K through 12 system works right now, they will not be forgoing any income at all,andquot; Kupper said.
Kupper also stress that urban renewal plans do not increase taxes.
andquot;Your tax bill does not go up,andquot; Kupper said. andquot;This is the pill as non-sugarcoated as it can be.andquot;