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County considers kick-starting its RDA

Article Date: 
24 August, 2012 (All day)

An economic development attorney has asked Morgan County to shake off the webs and dust that has collected on its Redevelopment Agency created in the days of Garth Day and kick things into gear again.
“You have a sad history of your redevelopment agency,” said J. Craig Smith, a lawyer with Salt Lake-based Smith Hartvigsen PLLC.  He said he had a hand in starting Morgan County’s “ill fated” RDA.  “But we need to prime the pump or nothing will happen.”
In creating an RDA years ago, the county has already taken the first step, he said.  That RDA still needs bylaws, Smith said.  He also suggested the county decide how much time and effort they want to put into economic development.
“We do need to have some economic development,” Morgan County Councilman Lyle Nelson said.  “We are still fumbling along in chaos.”
The next step is identifying project areas where the county would like to see business development occur in the future.  Typically the life of a project is between 5 and 25 years, he said.  One RDA can have several projects at once.  For example, South Jordan has 14 RDA projects in different stages.
Smith said creating a project area could take between two to five months when taking into account the necessary public hearings and notification of affected land owners.
Once a project area has been identified, the next step is creating a taxing entity committee made up of county, city, school, state office of education, and other taxing entities such as mosquito abatement and water companies.  This committee would review and approve RDA budgets and expenditures.
If the project is considered a community development project, there would be no need for a taxing entity committee.  Instead, all budgets and approvals would be governed by interlocal agreements.
Smith said the county could move forward with bylaws and identifying a project area without having a budget.  In fact, he recommended the county not put any money into their RDA until all legal issues from the past have been resolved.
“Things that happen in economic development don’t happen by happenstance or chance,” Smith said.  “It is a competitive world, and this is a game that is being played out there. A redevelopment agency can be used as an economic development tool.”  
Smith educated the county council on how to use tax increment financing to attract new businesses to the area, as well as accessing those funds through community development, urban renewal, and economic development projects.  Most commonly, tax increment financing is used to improve infrastructure, Smith said. 
Such was the case when Proctor and Gamble came to Box Elder County.  Its tax increment funds were used to pay back a bond that financed infrastructure improvements.
Smith said the county would be wise to proactively rezone property in the identified project area in order to expedite a business locating there.
“Get the area so it is ready to go,” Smith said.  “It is attractive if you have zoning.  It saves a lot of conflicts.”
County Councilwoman Ronda Kippen said the county should also work on adding permitted and conditional uses to their ordinances that could benefit businesses locating to RDA project areas.