Seaside is considering forming another Urban Renewal Area. The area would consist of approximately 25 percent of the City of Seaside and would include property located generally east of the Necanicum River in the central portion of the City. Urban renewal is not a new tax it just rearranges property tax revenues so that a kitty is formed over time to allow projects to be funded which will encourage the elimination of “blight” and increase the speed and intensity of development. The kitty will not come from some “angel in the sky.” It will come from reducing and redirecting the level of school instruction funds and public safety funding that we are now receiving.
At a recent public meeting, the city identified potential projects within the new redevelopment area. The city stated that the projects that are the most important are those that provide utilities and roads in support of the consolidated school project.
City consultants were on hand to explain that this is not a bond and that the process is incremental and it takes a number of years to build up kitty funds before projects can be funded. But the consolidated schools project is on a three to four year construction schedule. There is no possible way to successfully open the new schools without having the roads and utilities built to support this opening. This redeveloped financing is completely unsuitable for providing the necessary infrastructure in a timely manner for opening the schools in three to four years.
The city also identified that redevelopment financing would support the seismic improvements of our bridges in this area, which would allow residents, and visitors to escape to safety should a Cascadia event occur. These improvements are required now and not 20 to 30 years down the road when and if the kitty is big enough.
The most important piece of infrastructure in this new redevelopment area is Highway 101. Improvement of the highway is funded by the State of Oregon. Many of us, including Oregon Department of Transportation, certainly remember that the citizens of Seaside turned down ODOT’s plan for $50 million worth of roadway changes. Business development and redevelopment along Highway 101 is the key to making redevelopment financing perform in this area. The state is unlikely to propose another highway improvement plan after it was forced to waste $5 million of your tax money on the last one. Also, population growth of Seaside is zero and much of local and regional business development is relocating to Warrenton. Without population and business growth and highway improvement, there will be nothing to make a redevelopment project successful in this area.
But near term financing is absolutely necessary for school infrastructure and bridge improvements. In my opinion, the key to solving this problem is in the hands of the school district. They have been presented with an alternative plan for our school project that saves you $50 million, meets all of the kid’s schooling and safety requirements and eliminates the need for additional millions of this road and utility improvement that you the taxpayers are now being required to spend over and above the $100 million school bond.
I hope they have the guts to remake their plan to one that achieves success for the kids while living with reality.