Sunday, May 11, 2014

City Council, May 12th

It's a struggle this week to have anything very interesting to say about Council! Mostly from our perspective it's housekeeping-level matters.  (Maybe you will see something more substantive on land-use and transportation?)

The Urban Renewal Agency proposes a new program to replace the existing downtown "toolbox" program:
Since the Toolbox was approved by the Agency Board, 129 funding commitments have been issued on 65 different buildings...[and] helped property owners improve their buildings with eligible projects that include windows, HVAC, ADA/seismic upgrades, elevators, sprinklers, electrical/plumbing upgrades, and facade improvements. Under the existing Toolbox, a project that costs $300 has the same grant funding considerations as a project that costs $4M. Maximum funding for both interior and exterior grants is $50,000 each. The average size of projects being completed is $60,000 to $120,000. It is apparent that the existing Toolbox supports small projects, but may not be working to incent private investment for larger projects....

the proposal creates "small project" and "large project" grant categories. Small Projects are those that cost between $10,000 and $100,000, with the Agency grant providing up to 50% of the eligible project costs. Large Project grants are those that cost over $100,000, with the Agency grant providing between 15% to 25% of eligible project costs, depending upon the cost of the project, and the degree to which the project furthers the Program objectives and guidelines. The maximum potential grant under the Program is $300,000, without specific Agency Board approval. [italics added]

The URA's economic development report at first glance is somewhat undernourished, and looks more like report churn than substantive development! You see boilerplate like this, "Fairview Urban Renewal Area- continue the Fairview Small Business Pilot Loan Program to support job growth and private investment in the area," and you have to wonder how much "job growth" it actually entailed.  On the other hand, considerably bigger claims are made for the "Enterprise Zone program":
Henningsen Cold Storage Company and NORPAC Foods, Inc. concluded exterior construction of their new facilities in April2014; overall completion is expected by early summer. Garmin AT, Inc. continues with the construction of their new building. When complete, these companies will have invested over $40,000,000 and added approximately 200 jobs. The Enterprise Zone program was influential in helping these firms determine to locate and expand in Salem. Enterprise Zone incentives provide three to five years of property tax abatement for eligible traded sector businesses and support the City's business retention and expansion efforts. 
Pastoral Capitalism:
on suburban
corporate landscapes
Maybe you will know more about this area or read the report more closely and see something different. One overall thing stands out, though: How "sprawly" too is this economic development effort, with much effort on low-density office/industrial parks on the edges of the city. Some industry really does require land, of course, but a lot of businesses could be in denser development just as easily as in a suburban office park, and notwithstanding things like the toolbox program, at a higher elevation it seems we disinvest in the central city in order to facilitate a flight to the 'burbs and edges.

There's another round of applicants for the Planning Commission, which has two open seats at the moment.  A current Historic Landmarks Commissioner appears to be recommended.  An employee of Cherriots was one of the non-recommended candidates, unfortunately - but it would be great to have more thought about transit and transportation on the commission!  Maybe next time.  In any case, there's some maneuvering or something going on, however.  You may recall in February an earlier round. At that time Council did not make a recommendation or appointment, but the recommended appointment this time was one of the non-recommended group last time.  A couple of people dropped out and the Cherriots rep was added. And the committee recommends filling one seat only, holding the other open to recruit more candidates. It's a little curious, that's all.

There's an enclave annexation on Wallace Road, and annexation remains opaque as ever. 

Old news, procedural news, on the right-of-way vacation for the RR crossing and street in the North Block of the Boise project (when State Street was going to be closed) and the TSP amendments. (See previous discussion of TSP amendments at Planning Commission.)

Again, maybe you see something more interesting or important?

1 comment:

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Yup, the SJ also seemed to struggle with topic selection... They led with the food-agricultural thing, and in fact didn't write about anything else in the Council preview:

"Salem City Council Monday, May 12 will consider adopting a resolution to support a proposed Marion County Extension and 4-H Service District. The service district would provide taxpayer funds to offset budget cuts to Marion County Extension, which provides a variety of agricultural programs."