Heights Urban Renewal on front burner

May 25, 2011

A potential new look for the Heights is generating some excitement among business owners.

Pocket parks, landscaped sidewalks, revitalized façades and connections to hiking trails are all possible.

Hood River Heights Business Association members were briefed on an upcoming proposal to establish a new Urban Renewal district on the Heights in Hood River.

The guest speaker at the May 19 HBA meeting was City of Hood River advisor Elaine Howard, Urban Renewal project consultant.

Howard provided the group with an overview of how UR agencies operate and summarized the soon to be presented UR Plan and Report, now being finalized by City Manager Bob Francis.

The proposed area to be incorporated into the Heights UR Plan encompasses the business zone extending from Brookside Drive down 12th and 13th streets to the intersection with Oak Street.

Two upcoming meetings remain in the public process prior to adoption of the Heights UR district.

June 20, the Hood River City Planning Commission will review the UR Plan and report and make recommendations at 5:30 p.m.

On July 11 at 6 p.m., the city council will take up the plan as an open public hearing, allowing for public comment prior to voting.

The currently identified Heights UR projects include: storm water and sewer improvements, water line upgrades, parking improvements, land acquisition, streetscape improvements, possible pocket parks and green space.

A business assistance (loan) program will also be established with UR funds for façade improvements and other business upgrades.

Over a 20-year period, the UR district will collect approximately $8.5 million in funds to be used toward identified projects.

If a revised capital improvements plan is adopted by the city council, the city may provide additional funding toward designated Heights UR projects.

If passed, shared taxing districts within the proposed Heights UR Plan Area would forgo potential tax revenues equating to $8.5 million over the 20-year period.

Contrary to popular belief, no new taxes are imposed to fund urban renewal.

Once a UR district is established, the tax valuation for the district is "frozen" - maintaining existing tax level support for shared taxing entities.

As properties appreciate in value, the increase in taxes - the "increment" generated above the established "frozen" base - is used to pay for debt on specific projects within the UR Plan Area.

Taxing districts that will be affected by the new Heights UR district include: Hood River County General fund, 9-1-1, City of Hood River, Port of Hood River, Hood River Parks and Recreation, Hood River Transportation District, Columbia Gorge Community College, Hood River County School District and Columbia Gorge Educational Service District.

Tax districts affected by tax sharing often support UR projects, which generally increase property values and improve both economic activity and infrastructure within the zones.

More information on the proposed Heights Urban Renewal Plan Area and upcoming related planning meetings may be obtained from Hood River City Manager Bob Francis at BobF@ci.hood-river.or.us or by calling the city offices at 541-386-1488.

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