When it came to boosting Lincoln City’s economic and civic fortunes, few devices have worked as well as urban renewal. But it is ironic that in it’s 26 years of helping to create a more prosperous and livable Lincoln City that urban renewal would not just fade away at the end of its legally limited lifespan, but rather would go out with a thunderous finale.
Urban Renewal Director Kurt Olsen, fresh off a series of meetings with officials of local taxing districts like the Devils Lake Water Improvement District, the Lincoln County School District and the Lincoln County Commission, among others, Olsen said it seems full speed ahead toward a final push to create the most valuable urban renewal project of them all – the north end of the city, including the recently city-acquired The Villages.
Olsen said the plan is to expand the city’s urban renewal district into the north end to not only ensure that The Villages development moves ahead to give the city a return on its investment when it develops, but also many residential areas around it, including The Palisades. In short, urban renewal would borrow the money to install new sewer and water lines, pump and lift stations, curb, gutters and sidewalks and other improvements that make development even possible.
The city’s current urban renewal effort was scheduled to expire in June of this year, well below it’s maximum indebtedness. There is, in fact, still $7 million in urban renewal capacity left over from the original 1988 plan. Olsen says that seven million will go a long way toward installing sewer and water lines through a major portion of north Lincoln City. Again, the city bought a lot of that terrain from a distressed developer whose ambitious plans were cut short due to the Wall Street Crash of 2008. Although the city bought it all at a good price, it was still a lot of money that must be recouped.
Olsen said urban renewal’s final chapter involves borrowing money to install new infrastructure followed by new homes and businesses which will then begin producing tax revenues for schools, the county and Lincoln City. Lincoln City’s Urban Renewal Agency will take a portion of those property tax revenues to pay off the loan and forever thereafter enjoy decades upon decades of tax revenues beyond the seven million originally borrowed.
Another bonus for other taxing districts is that they’ll be getting higher tax revenues overall. Not only in the future from north Lincoln City, but from all city urban renewal areas which will soon be sharing fully 80% of all urban renewal income from its various districts around town which have risen in value due to urban renewal’s infrastructure investments.
All Urban Renewal Agency members seemed very pleased with the plan.
Olsen said he will be back before them at their next meeting with a formal resolution outlining the finished plan for their consideration and hopefully their approval.