City discusses urban renewal

It was Urban Renewal 101 on Monday night and the city council went to school. 

Elaine Howard of Elaine Howard Consulting and Scott Vanden Bos presented an hour-long informational presentation to the Cottage Grove City Council on the ins and outs of creating an urban renewal area. 

The meeting was a work session with no action items. 

The idea of an urban renewal area is not new for Cottage Grove. The city has had two within the last 25 years and the prospect of creating a new one will be up to the city council. 

Established federally in 1949 and in Oregon in 1951, an urban renewal area provides a financing mechanism for a city to complete projects aimed at expanding the tax base. Projects can include streetscaping, lighting, signage, storefront improvements or sewer and water infrastructure improvements. 

To complete these projects, the urban renewal area allows for the tax value within the area to be frozen. “The money does not come from no where to do these projects,” Vanden Bos told the council, “They do forgo taxes on any growth in the area.”

Taxes in the urban renewal area are still paid. However, tax growth within the area goes toward the urban renewal district.

“In 1997 I described this as a forced savings program,” Cottage Grove City Manager Richard Meyers said. “We established the base amount we collect but everything above that goes to a savings account or those projects we’ve identified in that plan.”

There is no time period requirement for urban renewal areas but according to Howard, they typically last between 20 and 25 years but can close out early if the projects within the plan are completed ahead of schedule. Several entities were present during Monday’s work session including representatives from the fire district, business community and school district.

According to Howard, school districts generally support urban renewal areas, citing their tendency to increase the tax base and subsequently add students to schools. She noted that the firm has worked with fire districts within urban renewal areas as well.

The next step, according to Meyers, is for the city council to decide whether or not it would like to create an urban renewal area, hold a public meeting to make a decision and vote and possibly hire a consulting firm.

It take approximately six months to create an urban renewal plan.

“I don’t now anyone who does it on their own,” Howard said. “Typically, you hire a consultant.” Howard’s fee has a base starting rate of $30,000.

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