Monday, August 13, 2012

Campaign 2012 Issues: Urban Renewal District

The Issues:  Urban Renewal District
Many ask what is an Urban Renewal District?  What does it do?  This is a major topic this election season at the City, County, and State level.  Much of the discussion revolves on how Urban Renewal Agencies are to use the money it collects – for business attracting enhancements, city infrastructure, public buildings.  It is the City Council’s job to determine which projects and programs the funds should be used for Canby’s Urban Renewal District was created in November of 1999 and it was defined then as:
“The Urban Renewal Area is a single geographic area with a single contiguous boundary in which a variety of activities and projects are contemplated to eliminate blight and the causes of blight and intended to create an environment in which the private sector may develop uses compatible with the purposes of this plan.” ( (pg4)
Our “District” located on page 18 of our Urban Renewal Plan (  is made up of the Canby Pioneer Industrial Park (CPIP), continuing along 99E and widening around downtown on both sides of 99E, and finishing at Berg Parkway. 
So what makes this a delicate topic as well as decision is that the money comes from Tax Incremental Financing.  This means property values were frozen at 1999 values and as those values increase, the incremental amount of tax money comes from local government entities.  So, the increased taxes that would go to schools, community colleges, education service districts (4H Extension), cities, counties, and fire districts go to the Urban Renewal District. (
Initially the projects have been used in the CPIP to build the infrastructure of Canby – roads, sewer, water lines, etc., to draw new business to Canby.  Then, the projects have been moved around the district:  2nd Ave, City Parking lot at the end of 2nd,  and other street improvements.  We have used Urban Renewal funds for façade improvements, administrative costs, and most recently the 1st Ave redevelopment.  Some of the anticipated projects are:  finishing Sequoia Parkway to connect to SE 13th Ave; extending Berg Parkway to NE 3rd Ave; improvements to Wait and Community Parks; building a new library; new city hall; and improvements to 99E.
As Mayor, I would like to see a revamping of the façade program, so that buildings can keep up with improvements.  Also, to look at additional programs to spur economic investment and sustainable jobs for Canby.  In regards to URD funds, I think it is also important to see the entire scope in terms of funding these programs.  What parts of projects are not covered by URD funds?   How will a given project sustain itself financially once it is complete? How are other programs, like schools and the fire department, being impacted by the council’s decision with URD funds?
The URD needs your voice.  It is your Councilors and Mayor that dictate these funds, and your input is important.  The next council meeting where we will be making decisions regarding URD funds is Wednesday, August 22 at 6pm at Council Chambers.  Further discussion and decision making will be conducted regarding improvements to and/or a new library.


  1. A couple of questions:

    In the past, has URD ever used tax money to fund projects that were previously voted down by voters?

    I'm confused, if our schools (etc.) are making so many cuts how does it make sense that the increased taxes that would go to schools goes instead to URD?

    Do you support how URD works in it's current state? What changes that you would make/keep with the current system?

  2. C and G thank you for asking some thought provoking questions.

    URDs have in the past used URD funds for projects that had been previously voted down. For example, in Canby the city had put out a bond measure to build a new $16mm police station on a piece of property in our industrial park. A couple of years later the Urban Renewal Agency (made up of the current city council and mayor) voted to build a less expensive police station, on a piece of property the city already owned, outside of the industrial park, and would enable us to sell that great piece of property in the industrial park to add revenue.

    The answer to the next question about the taxing entities that are being faced with cuts is a challenging question to answer, but I am going to try.

    Once an Urban Renewal District begins, I have not found anything that tells me we can suspend the URD to assist struggling taxing districts. One example that was recently presented to us was our Fire District. Since the inception of the URD 12 years ago, it has lost over $1mm in tax revenue to which the URD gave back $500,000 of that in the form of new equipment/storage facility. This begs the questions: is this how the fire district would have spent the $500k if the money had come in over the last 12 years? Would they have created a capital improvement plan? Would they have used that for fire fighters or EMTs?

    I am going to speculate that when the URD was created, they foresaw downturns in the economy. Those always happen for a period of time. I do not know that anyone could have forseen the downturn that we have been in lasting as long as it has. When the URD closes, we will continue to pay on the debt that we have incurred. So, the new police station that we just built in Canby, the last check for that will be written around 2035; and the library that is being pitched will be paid off later than that.

    So when you ask do I support what a URD does in its current state, I pause because Canby has been one of the few cities to have done this right. We have been able to use it for what it has been intended to do - grow the city's economic engine by attracting businesses and making capital investments into the community. My pause comes when we start building public buildings that don't necessarily grow or drive the economic engine. Public building are a drain of dollars and do not add taxes back in, in terms of property taxes and increased valuation.

    Your question about what I would change or keep is a good question. As Mayor, I am going to push for additional programs that drive more investments by companies and building owners. I will also push to see in the next URD some mechanism that pays those taxing districts a little over the life of the URD vs waiting until the end when all the debt service has been paid.

    If there are any other questions please do not hesitate to ask. Please check back for a recap of the library outcome and what plan is moving forward.


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