Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Ketchum leaders eye nonprofit groups to revitalize downtown


By REBECCA MEANY
Express Staff Writer

Tom Hudson, Economic development consultant

Without raising taxes and without overtaxing city staff, Ketchum could be raising large sums of money for the city's revitalization.

Economic development consultant Tom Hudson, under contract with the city to help formulate a downtown master plan, conducted a workshop for members of the Ketchum City Council and Planning & Zoning Commission Tuesday, Jan. 17.

Attendees were receptive to the idea of forming a community development corporation, a nonprofit entity with 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, and an urban renewal district, which is a public program that helps reinvigorate underperforming areas of a town.

"As we move ... from the discussion stage to implementation, both of these tools allow us to fund and move forward with the master plan," said City Administrator Ron LeBlanc.

"My team and I have kept a constant eye on implementation," Hudson said of the master plan. "In the state of Idaho, there are relatively few tools available to us."

In a community like Ketchum, a CDC's goals could be prioritized to highlight affordable housing, downtown development, business retention and finding financial resources.

"There are some things cities can go after and some things they can't," Hudson said.

Approximately 80 percent of certain grants are not available to municipalities, he added, making a partnership with a nonprofit organization an appealing way to garner funds for issues such as downtown revitalization, housing or historic preservation.

"There's a tremendous amount of support, a network of support, for this kind of thing," Hudson said.

Dave McAlindin, Twin Falls' economic development director and executive director of the Urban Renewal Agency, shared with the group his nearly 20 years' experience in the field.

"One of the worst things an urban renewal agency can become is a funding mechanism for public works projects," he said. "We encourage new private investment (in Twin Falls)."

Private investment and new projects increase property values, which in turn benefit areas within the district and outside its boundaries, McAlindin said.

"You use a portion of tax already levied to improve a district over time," Hudson added. Taxes would not be raised to add to the fund.

Ketchum city officials expressed a preliminary interest in forming an urban renewal district in the commercial core, running the district down Warm Springs Road and extending it to the Warm Springs base area of Bald Mountain.

Hudson also said the first phase of the city's downtown master plan should be done within a week.

The City Council at its Feb. 6 meeting may consider accepting the Phase 1 document, as well as contracting with Hudson for Phase 2.

They also could pass a resolution supporting the formation of a CDC, an urban renewal district, and a community development financial institution, in which a group of banks forms a loan pool for community purposes such as workforce housing.

"It's all good news," Hudson said. "These are tools available to you to use specifically to your interests."




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