Post Falls Mayor Clay Larkin broke a tie vote Monday to include more land in an urban renewal district that will help pay for an interchange at Interstate 90 and Greensferry Road.
“It’s a multimillion dollar decision,” Larkin said Tuesday.
Councilmen Todd Tondee and Joe Bodman voted against expanding the district because of concerns about increased taxes for all city residents.
By adding another 500 acres to the East Post Falls District, which now will go up state Highway 41 to Prairie Avenue, the city can generate money to contribute to pending highway improvements.
This commitment of money, which could total millions of dollars, will help expedite the Idaho Transportation Department’s planned overpass for Greensferry Road. Greensferry will eventually cross over Interstate 90, connecting the city’s north and south sides. ITD also wants to improve the Highway 41 interchange with Interstate 90. Larkin said those improvements are still several years off.
In an urban renewal district, the city freezes property taxes and money generated from new development within the district goes toward infrastructure improvements, such as roads and sewer. The idea is to encourage development in these areas. This district will expire in 10 years.
Larkin said the existing East Post Falls District wasn’t generating enough cash to help with the highway improvement costs and that’s why more land was added. The property is along state Highway 41, which is intended to have increased development because the sewer was recently extended to the area.
Tondee said he isn’t opposed to the concept of the urban renewal district or the money it would generate for the needed highway improvements.
“I’m just trying to protect the taxpayer,” he said.
Each year the City Council must decide whether it wants to cash in on the property tax revenue from the new growth in the taxing district. Usually the city opts to wait to recoup that money when the district sunsets, which in this case is 10 years, said city Finance Director Shelly Enderud.
But the council could decide it needs the new growth money from the district. That means taxes for property owners outside the urban renewal district would go up to provide that money. The reasoning is the entire city, not just the property owners in the district, benefits from the infrastructure improvements.
Tondee said it’s a gamble for the city to wait to collect the revenue for new growth until the district sunsets because the Idaho Legislature could potentially change the laws and no longer allow cities to collect the money.
That’s why he voted against the urban renewal district.
“It just concerns me enough that I wasn’t comfortable approving it,” Tondee said.
Last month, the council approved reopening a separate urban renewal district, the West Seltice District, near the Flexcel plan.
Greenstone Corp., a major developer, plans to add an industrial/commercial/retail segment to its residential property there, to create a live-work community. Other businesses are considering building offices in the area as a result of that.
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