Saturday, December 25, 2004
I would like to thank the City Council for its leadership, its concern for representing the entire community and for working toward a more cooperative and informed community. We are now in a position to evaluate whether to proceed with the urban renewal authority. Some of the persistent questions that need to be resolved are listed below. I encourage all parties involved to make an honest effort to answer these questions so we can make an informed decision at the Jan. 18 council meeting.
n Many of the improvements will be on private property. Why is the public paying for private-property improvements?
n The undeveloped land in the URA, i.e. Tennis Meadows, when built out will generate exponential tax-increment financing (TIF) property tax that will go to URA and not to all the services, needed support systems and districts that are necessary to meet the new growth demands. Sales tax and the restricted property tax will not support these new needs. How will the URA make up this difference?
n Where would this money from the TIF originally go and what services and districts will not receive this money they ordinarily receive?
n The boundaries appear to be set to achieve special agendas not in the public's interest. The boundary should emphasize the walking distance a normal tourist is willing to walk as the area of influence. Why did the URA choose these illogical boundaries?
n What is the process to change the boundaries if the public or the districts affected do not think they are working?
n Commitment by property owners and developers is needed. The public and the districts need to see the following information from the developers or owners on their private property: A timeline for development, a physical plan for remodels or new buildings, the money commitment for a funding source for the URA, and a maintenance plan so they do not become "blighted" again.
n A guarantee that inflation costs will be covered for all parties affected. Will the county's incremental tax increase of the base line that occurs every two years be sufficient to cover this?
n Who controls the URA, who is on the URA board? Does the public have a seat on the board, who elects or appoints the board, how can they be removed, can the public have real input on these matters?
n The state has reduced its shortfall to about $260 million after severely cutting back on roads, prisons, education and social services. The next areas to receive even more cuts are the schools as well as other vital social services. How can the state make up the shortfall to schools or other needs if this extra property tax goes to URA?
n How many public meetings are planned to educate the public?
n How much weight does the URA board give to public input? Can the public appeal through an inexpensive process? What is the process for rejecting the URA now or in the future? What are the legal means based on a home-rule charter?
n How will the URA impact the city's bonding ratings? What if the URA can't fund the city's liability for these bonds?
n What is the time period for the bond indebtedness? Can we change the time period if it is impacting the community negatively?
n If the URA will not harm the county or other districts, why can't it commit to a hold-harmless agreement?
n The state Legislature will be reviewing some of the potential impacts of the URA regulations, including condemnation of private property for development -- how will this impact our URA?
n Most of the "blight" photos are of private land. Why don't the owners undertake better maintenance of their property? How will the community be assured they will do so in the future?
n Why has there been no discussion on alternative solutions to the "blight"? What are some of the other methods that do not tax the community but those that directly benefit?
n Eminent domain and condemnations appear to be needed to make some of the roads and sidewalks become "unblighted." Why has this tool not been part of the discussion?