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Planning Commission Study Session Agenda and Minutes
Monday, February 26, 2018
The study session of the Medford Planning Commission was called to order at 12:00 p.m. in the Lausmann Annex Room 151-157 on the above date with the following members and staff in attendance:
Patrick Miranda, Chair
David McFadden, Vice Chair
E. J. McManus
Alex Poythress, Unexcused Absence
Matt Brinkley, Planning Director
Kelly Madding, Deputy City Manager
Carla Paladino, Principal Planner
Eric Mitton, Deputy City Attorney
Angela Durant, Principal Planner
Kristina Johnsen, Community Relations
20.1 Medford Urban Renewal Agency Substantial Amendment
Kelly Madding, Deputy City Manager, came on board the beginning of May of 2017. At that time the City Council and the Medford Urban Renewal Agency (MURA) board were looking at doing a substantial amendment to the Urban Renewal Plan. The Plan has been around since 1988 and will sun set this year should the City Council not want to pursue the substantial amendment.
The Planning Commission had a defined role in its recommendation to the City Council regarding the substantial amendment. Their role is to determine the substantial amendment does not conflict with the Comprehensive Plan.
Urban Renewal has been around for a long time. It is a mechanism to deal with blight. Phoenix, Talent, Jacksonville, Central Point, Grants Pass all have urban renewal districts. There can be more than one urban renewal district per city. Currently, Medford has only one. There is talk about Medford possibly having more than just one operating at the same time.
Blight is a statutory construct. There are approximately fifteen sub-definitions of blight. It is underdevelopment, under-utilization of property, poor conditions of buildings or poor conditions of structures. For populations over 50,000 a maximum of 15% of the assessed value of property with a city can be in an urban renewal district.
The City of Medford has an existing plan and is looking at doing a substantial amendment. The parameters of doing a substantial amendment is the size. The acreage cannot be increased by more than 20%. Land cannot be taken out and new land put in. The land in the original urban renewal district has to stay and only land can be added. The maximum indebtedness can be increased by 20% based on a complex indexing formula.
Concurrence is an issue. If the 20% is gone over the other major taxing districts have to agree. For Medford, the County would have to agree. The City is not proposing going over the 20%.
The area of the South Medford Interchange was right for development. It was vacant developable land on an interchange. They developed the downtown area some of west Medford and Liberty Park neighborhood. That was the urban renewal district that was identified in 1988. When urban renewal gets approved the taxes in that area are frozen. The taxes in the taxing districts stay the same on the frozen value. As the assessed value and taxes increase that increment goes to urban renewal. That is how money is generated for an urban renewal agency. It is an area known to be developed. There needs to be development to increase the tax increment financing. A property owner’s tax bill does not increase because of urban renewal it increases because of the assessed value. There would be a new line item on the taxes called urban renewal. People think their taxes will increase because of urban renewal. It is distributing the dollars differently that come from paying your taxes.
Commissioner McKechnie asked, if there is undeveloped property valued at $100,000 and something is built on it and the assessed value goes to $1 million the difference would be what goes to urban renewal? Ms. Madding replied yes. It is any assessed value increase.
The City has not paid its final bond off because they want to make a decision whether to go with the substantial amendment.
The goal of urban renewal is to attract private investment to increase assessed value so that there is money to deal with blight.
Commissioner Mansfield stated that the purpose of urban renewal was to eliminate blight. In watching these things happen over the years it occurs to him that sometimes economic development is more important than the minds of the people operating it. He is not opposed to economic development but he understood that the original person who designed all this has passed away. Ms. Madding stated that he is still alive. Commissioner Mansfield continued that the original person had in mind blight but now development is overpowering of the intent and mission. Would Ms. Madding comment on that? Ms. Madding believes that to be true. Especially if the urban renewal district is faced with someone leaving. It would be incumbent to look at that to provide urban renewal dollars so they would not leave. Looking at some of the things MURA has done in terms of the Lithia building and parking downtown they tried to make the downtown better and economic development goes along with that. It may look like it is more job focused and that comes as a second but excellent benefit of urban renewal but it is to keep the assessed value to turn those dollars into more dollars.
The goals of the City’s plan is to help blight; provide parking; to insure a more attractive downtown, preserve historical structures; to increase property value; create positive leakages from downtown to the South Interchange; and Liberty Park. A lot of the downtown has been infrastructure focused. Putting electrical lines underground, creating bulb-outs in the downtown to make it pedestrian friendly and the Bear Creek Greenway have been the goals. Leveraging money is a big goal because ideally when investing public dollars it is with public/private partnerships.
The MURA Board held three public hearings for citizens to come forward to express their support or not for the Urban Renewal Agency doing a substantial amendment to continue. All the feedback was positive. The MURA Board decided to appoint an advisory committee and directed that advisory committee to look at programs that are primarily focused in the Liberty Park area. The Liberty Park area is defined as the area north of Jackson, Biddle, Court/Central and McAndrews.
The City Council specified they wanted some money spent on seismic retrofitting buildings downtown. The City was alerted to a grant program late in the program to doing seismic retrofitting buildings downtown. They put it out to some of the downtown building owners and received interested feedback. Seismic retrofitting is very expensive and did not move forward. They want some money for downtown seismic retrofitting primarily because the ideally want to be able to provide incentives for housing downtown. The advisory committee held a neighborhood open house with approximately thirty-five people attending. Planning staff went door-to-door to deliver notices. Seventy percent of the housing is rentals in Liberty Park.
The City is embarking on a neighborhood plan for Liberty Park. It will update the Liberty Park Action Plan done in 2003.
The advisory committee came up with the Housing Improvement program. They discussed multi-family housing construction programs. Possibly looking at purchasing some land and offering it to a developer to build multi-family housing. Sewer lateral program benefits the City and residents in a concrete way. There is a lot of inflow of storm water into the sewer system in Liberty Park. It is all from the house to the City’s lines. They discussed street improvements on Beatty and Manzanita.
Commissioner Mansfield stated that the downtown seismic retrofitting is not Liberty Park. Does the City envision using the tax money for improvement on private property? Ms. Madding replied yes.
Commissioner Mansfield asked, does the City have criteria to determine what buildings get the seismic retrofitting? Ms. Madding replied they do not have any right now but they will. It is not going to be first-come-first served.
Commissioner McKechnie stated that the bad problem with seismic retrofitting is that it requires BOLI requirements. That has a tendency to be a “death nail” for subcontractors wanting to bid on the job and it costs the owner an additional twenty-percent.
On Thursday, March 1, 2018, MURA will have a public hearing on the substantial amendment. Ms. Madding will give the Planning Commissioners copies of the substantial amendment and the report. It is approximately forty pages. On March 8, 2018, it will go to the Planning Commission public hearing to determine that the projects in the substantial amendment do not conflict with the Comprehensive Plan. Staff will have a recommendation for the Planning Commission at that time. The City Council will have a public hearing on Thursday, April 19, 2018 to decide whether they want to move ahead with the substantial amendment and whether they want to disburse the money.
Commissioner Pulver asked, who approves an urban renewal district? Ms. Madding stated it is a City Council decision that will take place at the meeting on April 19, 2018.
Commissioner Pulver asked, does the City Council determine the timeframe of its existence? Ms. Madding replied yes.
Commissioner Pulver asked, how long is the existing agency collecting the incremental tax dollars? When does that stop? Ms. Madding stated that it is a little nebulas in one sense. One can pick a date for the urban renewal district to end. Achieving the maximum indebtedness is what drives it. That depends on what the future holds in terms of the investment that is made by urban renewal creating more assessed value.
Commissioner Mansfield stated that the Planning Commissions function is to determine whether there are conflicts with the land use plan. He presumes staff will be giving the Planning Commission input. He presumes it does not conflict. Ms. Madding reported that staff will look at the substantial amendment and provide a recommendation to the Planning Commission.
Vice Chair McFadden asked, how do you get everyone to agree on something special or unique (a brand) for the Liberty Park area? It would be nice to buyout the Salvation Army and develop a true park to act as the center point of that neighborhood. Ms. Madding stated there are other options or projects. They would have to fit under the umbrella of housing.
Commissioner McManus asked, could there be another future urban renewal district projection? Ms. Madding reported that it could be earlier. The City could look at different areas maybe with the urban growth boundary expansion. That is land that is not developed that has little assessed value. Maybe there are some adjacent areas that need or could be redeveloped.
Commissioner McManus asked, could the current district oversee another district? Ms. Madding stated that she believes they can. Clackamas County is famous for having many urban renewal districts. Their Board is the Urban Renewal Agency. She believes Medford’s also could.
Commissioner Foley asked, is there no open space provision in the substantial amendment? Ms. Madding reported that came up related to Bear Creek. Bear Creek is actually in the Liberty Park area as it has been defined. The advisory committee did not bring it forward to the list. It is not to say that the Planning Commission thinks there should be an open space provision because it complies more closely with the Comprehensive Plan.
Commissioner Culbertson asked, is there a resource he could go to see where the $66 million has been spent on improvement projects? Ms. Madding replied yes. On the City’s website, departments, MURA and there will be a report. City staff is working on the MURA page.
Commissioner Culbertson stated that one wants to see how the money was used. He sat on the Budget Committee and the Grant Subcommittee. The Grant Subcommittee had to split pennies to figure out who was going to get what. It came down to what is the bottom line worth back to the community for the service being provided? Giving back is the City Charter. If MURA is going to get a continuance of $20 million the City needs to show the case that MURA spent $66 million, they have this for it, we had “X” number of success. Ms. Madding stated that they could say that in the district MURA invested $66 million since 1988. MURA cannot take credit of every assessed dollar over the frozen value. Look at the total assessed value in 1988 to what it is now that increment in generating money.
Commissioner Culbertson does not give a lot of credence to the assessed value. How are they doing the assessed value? Who is putting a value on a property? There is a three percent increase every year. When putting sewer lines in it improves an entire street of sewer lines. He can see a direct benefit to the community. The infrastructure is going to work better and the people will not have to deal with y-connections that split two houses. There is a benefit. It does not have to be an increase in value on a specific address of house.
Ms. Madding will look into how much money was spent and what was the return of the investment. She does not know if they could do that analysis at this point or they could but it would take a long time.
The meeting was adjourned at 12:54 p.m.
Terri L. Rozzana