Mobilize as many people as possible to attend this important city council meeting; the future of "smart" development - computerized biometric surveillance environments is up for discussion. Monday January 26, 7:30pm, Council Chamber, 777 Pearl St.
URBAN RENEWAL EXPANSION GETS NOD
source: Eugene Weekly 11/26/03
The Eugene City Council voted Nov. 20 to move forward with a proposal to expand and continue the city's urban renewal districts. The effect of the vote will be to increase taxes and divert scarce school funding (see EW cover story, March 6).
The proposal, which will go to a public hearing in January, will expand the Riverfront Urban Renewal district by about 20 percent and renew it for another 20 years and continue the Downtown Urban Renewal District for 20 years.
Urban renewal is a complex method of creating a dedicated pot of money for development projects by manipulating taxes and diverting existing revenue for schools and other public services without a vote of the people.
Continuing the two urban renewal districts rather than eliminating them would effectively increase taxes roughly $38 for the average homeowner and divert about $2.8 million in other school and government tax revenue, according to city estimates. State school funding would lose about $1.1 million a year, the city of Eugene $1.1 million and Lane County about $200,000.
The tax and diverted revenue impact of urban renewal will increase dramatically in later years as property values rise in the expanded districts. The city, however, hasn't developed estimates of the longer term impact.
Urban renewal has been controversial in Eugene for decades with critics blaming it for destroying the city's historic downtown to build concrete parking garages and wasting money on a road to nowhere in the UO Riverfront Research Park that threatens to develop a scenic natural area along the Willamette River.
The recent decision to use urban renewal to fund a long-delayed new library was far more popular, but expanding and continuing the districts would create far more money than is needed to pay off the library debt.
City staff and councilors have said using urban renewal to help fund a new $33 million police station and adjacent parking garage costing millions more will be a top priority for the diverted money. The two districts now generate about $4.1 million a year in taxes and diverted revenue. The police station has twice failed at the polls by a wide margin.
The council voted 6-2 to move forward with urban renewal. Councilor Betty Taylor complained that urban renewal money is spent "outside the public eye" and is too often wasted. She pointed to the millions of dollars spent on the railroad underpass at the Riverfront Research Park. "It's just a big waste of money sitting there, and that's the kind of thing that's easy to do with an urban renewal district." — Alan Pittman