Tuesday, May 31, 2005

RDA Subcommittee Meets

The state legislature's Tax Reform Task Force subcommittee on RDA's met on May 26 and began their discussions. Lincoln Shurtz with the Utah League of Cities and Towns reported on the meeting, noting that much of the session was spent on the local option sales tax distribution and the associated tax incentive structure.

Lincoln wrote, "The question one must ask is why does the legislature care about this issue? Well, the legislative perception is that cities and towns have a very different vision of economic development than the state does. The perception is that cities exclusively focus on retail business to increase the 'point of sale' portion of the sales tax at the local level as economic development, while the state is focusing on high-paying job creation as economic development."

While there is some truth to this view of things, I think it is somewhat inaccurate because there are a number of economic development professionals working for local government who know very well the distinction between these types. The problem comes about because the state legislature, over the years, has created an environment in which cities have had to rely more and more on sales tax to fund the service demands. The cities have thus taken one of the few incentive tools available to local government to do just that.

But good economic development professionals recognize that this is not true "economic development." The state has just not given local governments much in the way of incentives or tools to encourage basic sector business and job growth.

This is why I say we must take a good, hard look at what it is we are trying to accomplish and craft some tools to help it happen. I think there are those in the legislature who understand this, but there is such a 'witch hunt' attitude among some legislators with regard to RDAs, it will be hard to really accomplish something worthwhile.

Lincoln goes on, "(Legislators) assume that a change in the current sales tax incentive structure may align local governments with the state when it comes to economic development.

"The recent RDA legislation also highlighted the issue of sales tax distribution as legislators drew major distinctions between tax increment financing for 'economic development projects' and 'retail-centric' projects. Many feel that changes to the distribution formula would solve many of the issues that were highlighted in the RDA debate -- mainly the issue of whether tax incentives should be given to retail projects that offer no net economic gain to the state."

Such an approach will only work if local governments are given other ways to finance local services besides the heavy reliance on sales tax. To simply change the distribution forumla and think this will solve things is like thinking that by taking an anti-histimine, you've cured your cold. The real problem is still there, you've only dealt with one of the symptoms.

On a related note, the Utah Intergovernmental Roundtable Annual Summit this year on Aug. 5 will have as its topic, "RDAs in Utah: Is Consensus Possible?" For more information, see www.cppa.utah.edu/uir/

Stay tuned for more on this topic!

Saturday, May 28, 2005

LDS Church Gets Planning Education in Boston

The Deseret News reports today on a session at the annual Mormon History Association meeting in Killington, Vermont where the process of getting the Boston Temple approved is discussed. It seems that LDS officials are starting to get a sense of what it takes to get projects through the local planning process, though in this case, the issue went all the way to the Massachusetts Supreme Court before finally being resolved (opponents appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case.)

The story notes a number of cultural and religious issues that became balled up in the controversy. On the land use side, Grant Bennet, an LDS bishop in the Boston area who became involved in the process, noted that the years of procedural and legal wrangling led to definite lessons learned. Among them were rumors and fears over almost every logistical aspect of the temple, which "spread like wildfire throughout the community. Residents feard property values would plummet, traffic would become unbearable and the temple spire would lord over their landscape."

The story notes, "Bennet said that when he told officials in Salt Lake City that they would have to be painfully open about every aspect of the project if it were to succeed, that there was some initial concern, but ultimately the church 'answered every question' in painstaking detail."

"Some feared Latter-day Saints would flock to the area in such great numbers they would ultimately take over the town and throw Shakespeare out of the schools, replacing classics 'with the Book of Mormon as required reading.'"

Welcome to the everyday world of the working planner! And this, the DesNews story details, among the area's (Belmont) residents, which "is home to many of the nation's leading intellectuals -- 'more Nobel laureates than anywhere else in the nation' -- who make up the faculty at Harvard, MIT and dozens of other universities in the Boston area."

Seem ignorance and prejudice in land use matters is no respecter of class!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Planners Mired in an Irrelevant Past, Columnist Says

Here's a little something to make all you planners out there think a bit. It's an opinion column in the New Zealand Herald (great place, New Zealand. I spent two years there, years ago), by Owen McShane (great name, too), Director of the Centre for Resource Management Studies (sounds like a planner of sorts, as well).

McShane talks about planners' seeming obsession with trying to keep retail on a Main Street scale, and the effort to recreate communities of times past. He also has an interesting quirk of calling planners "regulators," which may tell us something about what he thinks of planners.

McShane says, "The reports and planning documents that regulators use to justify their protection of mainstreet retailing centers...claim consistently that protecting 'the traditional centres' will maintain, or even restore, 'vibrant local communities.'

"This is a seductive claim," McShane continues. "Sadly it is wrong. Places do not create communities. Communities create places.

"Today, (the patterns of community interaction) have changed, but these changes seem to have passed the regulators by."

He concludes his column by saying, "We cannot write these outcomes into books of rules. And we will not meet the needs of today by regulating to maintain an irrelevant past."

McShane has a point. Read and think.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Which Came First -- Transportation or Land Use?

Transportation has been a hot topic in local politics for much of the past year (see LaVar Webb's posting on Utah Policy Daily). Much of the discussion in the political realm is focused on dealing with congestion (a mighty source of irritation and frustration to voters, hence the attention paid by politicians), and the need to have a viable transportation system to keep and enhance the economic health of the region.

We planners frequently deal with transportation as well, as it is an important component of planning for communities. However, I think we often don't understand very well the relationship between transportation and land use.

The Wasatch Front Regional Council and the Mountainlands Association of Governments are in the midst of an initiative called Wasatch Vision 2040. It is the first step in the update of the long-range transportation plan for the Wasatch Front (required by federal rules for Metropolitan Planning Organizations to keep the flow of federal transportation dollars coming in). Wasatch Vision 2040 is deliberately looking at different future development scenarios for the region, with the preferred growth principles pulled from this being used by the two MPOs to then craft an updated long-range transportation plan.

In the past, the process has involved taking all the general plans of the communities and working the transportation system into that crazy-quilt pattern. This time, there is a better coordinated, comprehensive and cohesive "vision" for the region to work from. The "danger," though, is that such a regional-level vision may not necessarily jibe with what each of the individual cities and counties may actually have on their plans.

So which drives which? Does land use drive transportation (ha! pun intended!), or is it the reverse? It's the old question of which came first, the chicken or the egg?

I tend to side with the idea that transportation systems are the skeletons upon which the "flesh" of land use is hung upon. Alex Marshall, in his book How Cities Work, says, "transportation is the most visible and active (factor) in shaping a place. It's a simple rule: how we get around determines how we live. But it's a rule we still haven't grasped. Transportation determines the form of our places."

Marshall goes on, "With places, government does this by creating transportation systems. ... a city's internal transportation system -- the layout of its streets and roads, the layout of streetcar systems and subways -- determines the character of the city, how its citizens live and work. ... Build subways and people will live in dense neighborhoods and walk to corner stores; build broad suburban boulevards and they will live in subdivisions and drive to WalMart. The choice is a matter of taste, as expressed through political decisions, more than economics."

This is why, to me, the choices we are making now, when the legislature considers funding for transportation, when Congress seeks to reauthorize the TEA-21 transportation act, when we develop Wasatch Vision 2040 and create a new long-range transportation plan for the Wasatch Front, will have more influence on how we grow as a region than just about anything else we can do. Even now, the most recently adopted long-range transportation plan has more transit than we have ever considered before.

The challenge will be, once we have decided on what that transportation plan will be, will our communities make the choices and adopt general plans that will complement the investment we will then make in transportation?

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Farmington RDA Example of Need for Some Type of Development Tool

The Deseret News carries a story on the Farmington Station transit-oriented and mixed use development about to get underway, and discusses the role of the RDA in helping it happen.

I sit as a representative on the Taxing Entities Committee (TEC) appointed by the Davis County Commissioners for RDAs in Davis County. In my role as economic development director, we have been working with Farmington City and developer Rich Haws for some time making this project happen.

The project is a great one, particularly for Davis County, where nearly 50% of our workforce commutes out of the county to go to work each day. Davis County also has the smallest percentage of its property tax base generated by commercial/industrial property of the four major Wasatch Front counties. What we really need is a better balance, with more basic sector jobs in the county.

Farmington Station will help us do that, by creating an office park area that will be upscale and competitive with such great business locations as LakePark and Research Park in Salt Lake. But the area is difficult to develop, with very little basic infrastructure in place, high water tables, and some older farm uses. The one thing the site has in spades is transportation access. The site sits just off the newly reconstructed Park Lane interchange in Farmington, where I-15, Highway 89, and the Legacy Parkway all converge. Also, the site will soon be home to a new commuter rail stop.

Left to its own devices, the area would have developed, but probably with small scale commercial/retail development, homes (we grow lots of homes everywhere in Davis County!), and not much else. To encourage the type of use that would be beneficial for the Davis County economy, developers needed help in the way of basic infrastructure.

Cities and counties have very few tools to invest up front in infrastructure cost. Wealthier communities like Layton have a somewhat easier way to do so because of their financial wherewithall, but a small town like Farmington -- good luck! One of the few tools available is the RDA law. Fortunately, the project was put together in such a way as to meet the requirements of the law, and the TEC saw the value of the project -- even the school representatives, who praised what the project would do, but voted against it because RDAs can only use property tax revenues, which impact school districts most.

This type of project shows the clear need for some type of tool to help communities by giving them the ability to front infrastructure investment to incent beneficial development. Don't throw the baby out with the bath water, state legislators! Find a way to allow projects like this to happen.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

RDA Problem Tough to Solve, DesNews Says

This morning's Deseret News carries an editorial comment saying while RDAs have been abused, they also can have a positive role in the development of our communities.

"Each time a city or county uses redevelopment money to lure a retail development, local school districts lose out on the property taxes that new development would have generated on its own," the DesNews says. "On the other hand, an RDA or an economic development agency that attracts new, high-paying non-retail jobs from out of state may indeed be worth the trouble, especially if it also revitalizes an area."

One of the issues we face today, however, is that many developments for business are becoming more mixed use, with offices, retail and housing, and even such things as transit stops mixed in.

As I said before, we need to recraft our RDA laws to allow for a variety of types of development, and to tap a variety of tax sources, not just the property tax.

Let's get to work!

Monday, May 16, 2005

RDAs to Face Legislative Audit

The "assualt" on RDAs continues, with a legislative audit about to begin - see story in the Deseret News.

Criticism of RDAs has become a frenzy, with all society's ills now being heaped upon them. But the original purpose of RDAs was a real and legitimate one, to help reform and rehabilitate areas that were in dire need of such effort. With today's emphasis on smart growth and new urbanism, this goal is more sought after than ever. RDAs can truly be an important tool in such efforts.

But there is no question that the original purpose behind RDAs has been stretched and pulled in directions quite different than the original intent. I think that's because there are other needs to develop infrastructure and encourage commercial and business development, but local governments haven't been given many tools to do so. So everyone uses one of the few tools available -- RDAs -- and makes them fit their situation.

I think there should be a recrafting of the RDA law, perhaps into three or four different kinds of tools for local governments to use, depending on conditions and circumstances. That's a lot of work, and I'm rather skeptical that such an effort can be undertaken by a subcommittee of the tax reform task force.

So -- we may wind up with half-measures and modifications, but the real issues won't be addressed and dealt with. More needs to be done, more time spent and some real work undertaken to craft something useful for the development of our communities.

I'm hoping!

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Back to the Ballot Box

I am convinced that ballot box planning and zoning will be a big issue for us here in Utah in the near future. There are a lot of local actions of late that are becoming the subject of challenges by local citizens and also by interest groups. Cases in Sandy, Riverton, Cedar Hills, and even Ogden and Centerville are some of the most recent examples.

California has long been the poster child for planning run amok through the initiative and referendum process. Elections in the Golden State usually see dozens of local plans, policies and development ordinances on the ballot for up or down public votes. Such actions have generally resulted in a higher cost of doing development business there. A study by Samuel Staley, reported in the APA Journal, seems to indicate that ballot measures are running up those costs in Ohio.

And, of course, the passage of Measure 37 in Oregon last November is a good example of how measures are often misunderstood, or at least not fully understood, by the public (though some argue that follow-up survey indicate the public did understand, they just didn't care that they were gutting Oregon's land use laws.)

There is, I think, a place for direct citizen action. But it is not, in my opinion, everything government does. Lora Lucero, a land use attorney in Albuquerque, writes in her soon-to-be-published piece for Zoning and Planning Law Report, "...it is the difference between the city council approving land use regulations...which establish criteria for future development applications, adn the approval or rejection of the development application itself. The first is typically considered a legislative decision and subject to a potential up-or-down vote of the electorate, while the second is an administrative decision and not subject to initiative and referendum."

In Utah, the same theory seems to apply. In the state code, there is a very specific designation of land use ordinances and general plans being legislative actions, and thus being subject to referendum or initiative. However, individual property rezones are designated as not being referendable. This seems to imply that such actions are administrative. But city attorneys throughout the state are very clear and very strong in maintaining that any rezone is a legislative action. So will the courts see it that way when the question is put before them?

Apparently, in the Sandy case now pending before the Utah Supreme Court, Sandy City attorneys made the point that if the plaintiffs concede that the action taken by the city to amend the uses allowed in the zone in the gravel pit parcel is an individual property zoning decision, then because of the language in the state code, the action is administrative and thus not referendable, and thus the suit should be dismissed. "Indeed, the very reason for defining 'local law' to expressly exclude in all instances 'individual property zoning decisions...was to legislatively prohibit subjecting such matters to a referendum vote at all. To read the statute otherwise ignores its essence, would wreak havoc on local zoning decisions, and requires overturning established Utah Supreme Court precedent." (Memorandum in Opposition to Petition for Extraordinary Relief, Save Our Communities v. Sandy City Recorder and Sandy City)

Will the Supreme Court go along with this argument?

As The San Francisco Chronicle wrote in an opinion piece a few years ago about a couple of proposed referendum petitions there, "Each (petition) contains blanket solutions to complicated problems of planned growth. ... Planning decisions should be reached by compromise and consensus, not winner-take-all ballot measures."

Where will we be in Utah in the near future?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

What Next, Comrade Planner?

Randal O'Toole, an interesting guy who calls himself a "free-market environmentalist," recently posted a bit of history he has found.

O'Toole quotes from a book that says American suburbs are "a chaotic and depressing agglomeration of buildings covering enormous stretches of land." The cost of providing services to such "monotonous stretches of individual low-rise houses" is too high. As a result, "the search for a future kind of residential building leads logically to" high-density, mixed-use housing.

The source of this bit of New Urbanism? A book titled The Ideal Communist City, written by University of Moscow planners in the 1960's. The principles of the book formed a blueprint for residential construction all across Russia and Eastern Europe during the Communist years, O'Toole says.

I don't think I buy into the idea that New Urbanism is just Communist planning principles recast, but it is an interesting parallel. Even O'Toole says, "I have always resisted the notion that smart growth and sustainability are some kind of international plot to take away American sovereignty. Even if it were true, saying so marks one as a kook and eliminates all credibility. But I don't think it is true; we have enough central planners in our own midst that we don't have to look for them elsewhere."

Sometimes, it seems to me, we planners do try to be a little too "central" in the way we plan and do our work. We all buy in to the latest ideas out there, we all travel around and look at what is working in one place, and try to sell that idea everywhere (especially some of the consultants out there.) Instead, we may need to recognize that every place is different and unique. Perhaps we should be striving to create "uniqueness" and not make everywhere the same.

You might get a kick out of some of the things O'Toole points out. Take a look at his Smart Growth and the Ideal City.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Designing Downtown

The "Vibrant Downtown" symposium held a couple of weeks ago (see earlier blog entries) and the subsequent discussion about when and how the LDS Church and their design-developer team will reveal their plans for redevelopment of the two downtown malls raises the point of how we design our cities these days.

The current issue of the Harvard Design Magazine discusses this topic in the article "Democracy Takes Command," by John Kaliski.

Kaliski describes how citizens in the Los Angeles area have taken over the process of urban design, turning away from ( or at least relying less on) urban design and planning professionals. Kaliski points to the propensity of ballot box initiatives and referenda in California as evidence of this process, and he opines that this is generally a positive thing, something I don't think I quite agree with.

The problem is that extensive citizen involvement stretches the review and approval process out to an extreme degree, part of the reason why many developers and investors are reluctant to attempt projects in California. But it certainly does make for projects that are more "acceptable" to the public. Kaliski writes, "Decisions and consequent design are debated and crafted by citizens acting as design and planning experts. Ideas, indeed design ideas, mutate and coalesce through either the threat of a direct vote or a pending vote (the infamous ballot box planning). Democracy, in which 'the people form a master that must be obeyed,' once again takes command of the design of neighborhoods, streets, the city, and the region."

"Los Angeles has also created a stew of public planning checks and balances. Dozens of advisory boards oversee specific plans, historic preservation zones, community design districts, and specialized overlay zones throughout the city. Where these plans are in effect, all but the smallest projects are reviewed at open meetings for a wide array of use, bulk, and general design criteria."

While such an arrangement involves the public (at least those who want to be involved), it also takes a long time, and in the financial and development world, time is money. And what a process! Kaliski notes, "...this most recent downtown renaissance involved twenty years of hard work and endless conversations, dialogues with developers and property owners, occasional lawsuits by preservationists, and the input of politicians and public officials who believed that the premise of downtown redevelopment focused too heavily on the new."

Somewhere there must be a balance between developer-driven and citizen-led design processes. Where do we want to go in the process of redeveloping downtown Salt Lake City, or any city, for that matter? Designing completely "close to the vest" will virtually guarantee criticism and opposition from citizens, but completely open, citizen-driven planning is costly and time consuming, not to mention hard to conduct effectively (like trying to herd cats).

Somewhere between the process now currently underway by the LDS Church development team, and that advocated by Mayor Rocky Anderson, may be the way to go.

Affordable Housing Suit in Summit County - The Attorneys Respond

The attorneys for the plaintiffs in the affordable housing lawsuit in Summit County, Bruce Baird and Michael Hutchings, sound off in an opinion piece in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

RDAs Need Their Own Task Force

The Standard-Examiner published an excellent opinion piece on RDAs today -- see StandardNET/Standard-Examiner.

The editorial points out the valid use of RDAs to help accomplish development and redevelopment of our urban areas. It also points out how cities are virtually forced to compete for retail development to generate needed tax revenue. Problems such as truly old and blighted areas, developed areas that have been parcelled out to the extreme, all need help to compete with development on green fields.

But can these complex issues really be addressed like they need to be, when RDAs are simply a subset of the larger tax reform topic to be taken up by the legislative task force? RDAs could easily be the subject of their own task force.

Affordable Housing Lawsuits, for Whose Benefit?

And now the Deseret News weighs in with a story on the affordable housing suit in Summit County.

The News says that Summit County Attorney Dave Thomas thinks the minority groups which are part of the suit filed against the county "are being used by landowners and Anderson Development." Park City Community Outreach Program director Shelley Weiss thinks so, too. She says, "It's a disgusting ploy by the developer to get higher densities and more value for their property."

Archie Archuleta, chairman of the Utah Coalition of La Raza, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, said he doesn't care if developers get rich as a byproduct of the lawsuit. The main goal, he said, is still to get more affordable housing in Summit County.

Interesting stuff.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

More on Suing for Affordable Housing

Today's Salt Lake Tribune editorializes on the lawsuit against Summit County for affordable housing. The Trib writes, "The civil rights suit, which they filed without charging a fee, looks suspiciously like litigation strategy to force the county to abandon its zoning plan that rightly recognizes the economic and aesthetic value of maintaining open space and a resort-like atmosphere in western portions of the county, especially Snyderville Basin."

Suing for affordable housing? On whose land?

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Are You Dense?

"What don't you get about us not wanting 'density?'"

This story in the Standard-Examiner StandardNET/Standard-Examiner again points out the problem planners and advocates of "quality growth" continue to have with the concept of more dense development. Like I say, to change the public's opinions about how we should grow is akin to turning an oil supertanker -- it takes a lot of time and space.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Ballot Box Zoning in Sandy and Cedar Hills

Still waiting on the Utah Supreme Court ruling on the attempt by some Sandy citizens to put on the ballot the change in the zoning ordinance to allow a Wal-Mart. Ballot box zoning is becoming a larger issue, and I think it will shape how we do planning in the future, depending on how the court rules.

The issue raised its head in another form last week in Cedar Hills. The Provo Herald published an excellent opinion piece on the topic last -- see it at In our view: Cedar Hills and democracy :: The Daily Herald, Provo Utah. (apparently this link will get you to The Herald website, but says it can't find the story. Click on the Archives in the top banner, and search for "Cedar Hills and Democracy", that will get you to it.) The Herald writes, "under the coalition's misguided democratic philosophy, Cedar Hills would need to convene a town meeting and get voter approval for every piece of business that comes before the city. It's an unwieldy, inefficient and unstable way to run a city.
"We elect representatives to do the business of government in our name. A mayor and city council are charged with formulating and directing economic development. ... The public has its chance for input at public hearings, and the council members listen informally to their constituents. But in the end it is the council's call and the council's vote. If you don't like it, you should aim for the next election cycle to throw the bums out. In this case, a few residents short-circuited the process and undermined civic order."

Lora Lucero, a land use attorney in Albuquerque, has written an article for Planning and Zoning Law Report on the topic, in which she explores the issue by telling the story of a couple of cases, one in South Dakota and the other the Sandy story.

Lora writes, "Ralph Nader considers the initiative and referendum the citizen activist's 'ace in the hole.' When citizen activists take to the streets collecting signatures for a referendum petition in a land use matter in their community, are they exercising their 'cherished' democratic rights of self-government or are they undermining the foundation of representative government and, perhaps, the constitutional rights of a few? It depends.
"So long as citizens had an opportunity to participate meaningfully in the preparation of the community's plan...and in the preparation of the land use regulations, their elected officials should be entrusted with making the administrative decisions to implement the plans and regulations. To hold otherwise invites chaos in the land use arena, and arbitrary decision-making at the ballot box."

There are, certainly, other opinions out there.

We'll see soon what the Supreme Court has to say about it.

Suing for Affordable Housing -- Who Wins?

A couple of interesting stories in today's Salt Lake Tribune about the lawsuits over the moderate income housing plans in recent years, one about what has happened in Bluffdale since the suit was filed and settled, and the other about a recently filed suit in Summit County.

Several suits are still pending in communities around the state. Recent changes to the LUDMA may change the character of such suits in the future, we'll have to wait and see. I haven't seen one of these suits carried out to a full ruling, it would be interesting to see if the law on adopting such plans really does mandate affordable housing in each community, or whether the community just needs to address it.

Regardless of all the noble-sounding motives for filing such suits, one thing is apparent to me -- Anderson Development has gotten to build what it wants to where it wants to in some of the cases.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

A Brave New World Coming for RDAs?

Lots of discussion lately about redevelopment, how it's been used, and what its future should be in Utah. There was some discussion about it at the Vibrant Downtown seminar last Tuesday, but probably more talk took place at the Utah Taxpayers Association conference on the same day. You can read about some of that discussion in the Deseret News story.

I attended the Utah Redevelopment Association special seminar on Friday in Provo to discuss what happened to RDAs in the last legislative session, and what might happen in the next year. Quickly, the legislature pretty well gutted RDAs, but promised to relook the issue during this upcoming year and make some changes in the 2006 legislative session. The primary motivators for what happened in the 2005 session seemed to be the role of eminent domain (and a noisy, messy contentious RDA project for a Wal-Mart in Ogden, where eminent domain was being used really set that issue off), attracting retail businesses with tax increment (no net economic gain from this, the argument went), and the game of siting a new soccer stadium for the Real Salt Lake soccer franchise, all played into the mix.

As some of the presenters at the Provo seminar described it, there was a "perfect storm" convergence during the session that just overwhelmed any attempt at making a favorable case for RDAs. Not only were the events described above taking place during the session, but there was a remarkable coming together of various groups with some beef against RDAs, led by the Utah Taxpayers Association, and included school districts, the UEA, the state office of education, the Utah Association of Counties, and others.

In the end, RDAs very nearly were wiped out altogether, but a valiant effort by a few cities and the Utah League of Cities and Towns at least salvaged something and kept the discussion alive for another round next year.

There was discussion during the session that there would be a task force to rethink RDAs, but in the end, the effort has been rolled into the broader Tax Reform task force, to be chaired by Sen. Curt Bramble (a big opponent of RDAs) and Rep. Wayne Harper (an RDA friend). Likely what will happen is that a subcommittee of the task force will be formed to specifically address RDAs.

Some very good points were made at the Provo seminar. Richard McConkie of the Ogden RDA and president of the Utah RDA Association, said that practioners of redevelopment are really in the business of building communities, that RDAs are a tool to help us do so. He conceded that there are "issues" with the existing RDA law, that there are many different circumstances but that the law tends to be written more as a "one size fits all."

Lincoln Shurtz of the League said that as community builders, we do want to have influence over where and how development goes, and that RDAs are one of the few tools we have to do so. He stressed that there are legitimate reasons for why this tool is needed, such as for incenting industrial and office development that produces basic sector jobs that bring new revenue into the state; to make more productive encumbered areas that might otherwise not develop, such as floodplains, contaminated land, and truly blighted areas; and for the continual redevelopment process that occurs in central business districts in larger communities.

My feeling is that RDAs are indeed a legitimate community development tool, one of the few we have in Utah. The original law, however, was written long ago when conditions were very different. It is obvious, given our current situation with property taxes and with the primary reliance on it by schools, counties, and special service districts, that this may need to be refocused, perhaps to include sales tax and other taxes and fees. The eminent domain power will also likely need to be rethought, and the whole issue of blight will need to be addressed. Perhaps there can be different levels, based on a set of needs for the individual areas to be developed.

More to come on this topic, for sure!