Jan 29, 2006

Clean It Up, Then Send It To The Voters. Maybe.

Troutdale Urban Renewal: Here are my thoughts as of today. Frankly, my thoughts and opinions on the current urban renewal proposal have been all over the map for several days now.

These are just my thoughts and not necessarily those of the rest of the Troutdale City Council. (Double disclaimer in case you missed the disclaimer on my blog's header. Just some CYA for yours truly.)

First, we can stipulate some facts. Our urban renewal consultant Jeff Tashman and city staff have verified that the project numbers (below) are "soft". To me, this means FANTASY any way you look at it. But here are the figures, make up your own mind. (Click HERE for to view the entire Troutdale Riverfront Renewal Plan).

The attached tables list the Committee'’s recommended projects for the redevelopment of the
former STP site and adjacent properties.
Tashman Johnson LLC (Preliminary Project Estimates)
Table 1: Minimum Improvements
Minimum Project Elements Cost
Southern Access Under RR $250,000
Internal Road from Southern Access
to Chelsea
Site Prep and Clean Up $900,000
257th Way $360,000
Right-of-Way, 257th, from Chelsea $2,230,000
Subtotal $4,440,000
Parks Department Relocation $450,000
Minimum Project Total $4,890,000
Projected proceeds from sale of land after necessary public improvements along with
developer contributions would fund the minimum improvements.
Table 2: Full Vision Project Costs

Additional Elements for Full
Riverfront Park and Plaza $4,000,000
Pedestrian Crossing from Historic
Columbia River Highway
Public Parking $4,000,000
Additional Full Vision Costs $10,500,000
Full Vision Grand Total $15,390,000
Projected proceeds from sale of land after necessary public improvements, developer
contributions plus projected tax increment revenues would fund most of the full vision
project costs. Additional resources may also be possible through the creation of a
Local Improvement District (LID) and the utilization of System Development Charges
(SDC's) where appropriate.

There you have it. Feel free to give your own opinion of these estimates. If you have construction estimating or project management experience, I would appreciate your input.

The next thing to consider, in addition to project costs, is the issue of the impact of tax increment financing on Troutdale's taxpayers. While there is no impact on the general taxes paid, for Bonds sold before October 6, 2001, there is an impact (which means TAX INCREASE) of approximately .035 cents per $1000 of assessed value.

Here is the Q&A that was received from Mr. Tashman on January 12:

How does tax increment financing have an impact on 0.035 cents per $1,000 of assessed value on bonds approved before October 6, 2001. What is the legal mechanism that makes this happen and how does it work?

Statutes require that the rates for these bonds be calculated to provide the issuing taxing district with the funds they need for debt service and provide the urban renewal agency with the funds generated by the bond rate times the incremental assessed value. Bonds approved after 10/2001 do not generate any revenue for the Urban Renewal Agency so the rates are not affected.

Which Bonds will this apply to for Troutdale property owners?

City of Troutdale, Metro, Multnomah County, Tri-Met and Reynolds SD, but only for those bonds approved prior to 10/2001.

What does "impact" mean?

Impact means rate increase, which we ha’ve estimated will be no more than 3.5 cents per $1,000 and which will decrease over time. This rate equates to $3.50 for every $100,000 of assessed value (not market value).

A potential increase? A mandatory increase?

It's mandatory, but again only for bonds approved prior to 10/2001.

Taking the entire urban renewal plan into consideration, I can narrow down my concerns to two areas- the "soft" project construction estimates, and the tax increase of 3.5 cents per thousand that was only disclosed after many, many meetings.

I think the rest of the urban renewal plan is good to go. But it boils down to the money. How much is it going to cost, and how are we going to pay for it? And will the final product be worth what we paid for it?

Regarding the soft project cost estimates, I have to admit that it's impossible to accurately estimate the costs of projects that may not get underway for several years. However, for the first project or two, construction will probably begin within 12 months, provided that voters approve urban renewal. The first projects will probably be punching the road through the outlet mall, and site demolition/cleanup.

We should be able to get a more realistic cost estimate for these first projects so voters can make an informed decision. And make no mistake about it. If the City Council doesn't trust the revised construction numbers we have requested from Tashman and city staff, the urban renewal question won't even get to the voters.

Now regarding the tax increase to Troutdale property owners of 3.5 cents per thousand as a result of tax increment financing. I think the admitted decision by Jeff Tashman to intentionally withhold this information from the Troutdale Ad Hoc Committee, the Citizens Advisory Committee, the Parks Advisory Committee and from the City Council until January 11, is arrogant, atrocious, and unforgivable.

However, the proposed tax increase is what it is. As much as I don't care for the proposed tax increase, I think it's up to Troutdale's voters to decide if it's something they want to pay. Several Troutdale merchants and business owners, in addition to a few Troutdale City Councilors, wanted to go ahead with urban renewal without letting voters decide.

I disagreed , and have fought since June 2005 to send this issue to Troutdale's voters. See:
Troutdale Councilor Canfield: Tax Increment Financing: Take it to the neighborhoods.

Yes, I have been tempted to just vote "no" on the approval of the urban renewal plan, and "no" on sending the issue to the voters. But that's just not right. The basic urban renewal plan is a good one. The only issue on the table is how to pay for it. And that question is not one for the Troutdale City Council to decide. It is up to the voters.

I still might change my mind, but that's the way I see it today.


Troutdale Councilor Canfield said...

As I have mentioned before, I'm rejecting almost all anonymous comments.

Comment all you want, be critical all you want. But identify yourself. Otherwise the comment goes in the trash.

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