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City says it will repay other taxing districts for urban renewal extension

Mayor Lore Christopher

Of the Keizertimes

The newest iteration of the city’s proposal to extend urban renewal district to pay down bond debt comes with a promise to fully repay other taxing districts.

The Keizer City Council took public testimony on the issue last week, but hasn’t yet made a decision. The city is in that position due to a developer’s apparent inability to pay some $800,000 and counting towards local improvement district assessments at Keizer Station.

New details of plans to reimburse overlapping jurisdictions for foregone revenue also emerged. The city needs agencies representing 75 percent of taxing revenue to sign off, meaning the Salem-Keizer School District is an essential player. It represents some 35 percent of revenue, and there’s no deal if the school district doesn’t sign off.

The city’s proposal calls for guaranteed payment of funds the school district could possibly lose as a result of the extension – some $134,058. This will occur over the next four years. All jurisdictions will be paid back with 4 percent interest once affected land is repossessed from or voluntarily conveyed by developer Chuck Sides. But the city has 10 years before that payment is due.

The proposal allows the city to hold onto the land until market values reach a level deemed optimal, said City Attorney Shannon Johnson, avoiding what he called a fire sale.

And Christopher sought to dispel any notion that Sides is receiving a bailout.

“That developer will pay back every dime he owes Keizer taxpayers,” Christopher said, adding that “creating jobs incurs risk and if we want it to be more than lip service, we have to incur risk.”

Part of the plan includes defunding the city’s River Road Renaissance program, created to revitalize the city’s urban core in a bid to help compete with Keizer Station. Matt Williams said the city would be making a mistake by removing some $1 million remaining in the program’s line item.

“I just don’t think we should send the wrong message to River Road businesses – that they’re not important enough to leave those funds there,” Williams said.

David Philbrick said allowing the urban renewal district to expire would allow more citizen control over the budgeting process.