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Benefits Of Urban Renewal District Touted

District could generate up to $15 million

INDEPENDENCE -- The city's urban renewal district (URD) could generate up to $15 million in property tax revenue during its 20-year lifespan, a recent financial analysis shows.

Those URD funds will be used on several of the city's capital projects, and could allow officials to complete the Independence Amphitheater by next year.

The August report, performed by Tashman and Johnson, LLC., a municipal planning firm in Portland, is based on growth in assessed property values, future construction and development, said City Manager Greg Ellis. It shows projected tax increment revenues from 2004 to 2022.

URDs are a state-approved method for cities to generate revenue for restoration and capital improvements to blighted areas within a specified boundary.

The property-tax base in that area is "frozen" for a designated period, usually 10 years or more. Local property taxes levied above that set amount are then dumped into a special fund, then distributed to city-approved projects.

Before the URD went into effect in January of 2002, city officials estimated it would raise just over $5 million in 20 years. That was before businesses such as Medallion Cabinetry located to Independence.

Ellis said the increase shown in the report stems from that business, along with future property tax revenues from development such as Independence Station, the 56,000 square-foot, mixed-use building being erected across from city hall.

"I was surprised," Ellis said. "I didn't anticipate the report showing the tax revenue at that level."

The city's URD encompasses most of the property downtown off the Willamette River, extends out onto a section of Highway 51 just beyond N. Main Street and into the city's industrial are on Hoffman Road.

The total assessed value of the land upon creation of the district in 2002 was almost $29 million. The report estimates it will be more than twice that amount by 2014.

Ellis said the city could possibly use up to $3 million from the district during the 2004/05 fiscal year, with the debt repaid through tax increment revenues collected through the URD in the future.

Ellis said the favorable revenue projection will allow the city to fund more projects within the URD.

Some that have already been identified as priorities include a renovation of the Hop Warehouse, possibly as a movie theater, a new city hall and a small portion of the proposed Ash Creek Trail.

The entire trail would run west from Independence to the Western Oregon University campus.

The city will also add the second-phase of the Independence Amphitheater - the bowl section in the lower half of Riverview Park - to the list.

Ellis said URD funding would be used as a back-up plan to complete the project in the first half of next year if the city fails to solicit the remaining $700,000 for the project through private and public investment.

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