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City moves closer to boosting downtown Urban Renewal District Discussed

The City of Belgrade is waking up to feedback that it’s in their best interest to help the downtown area become a more palatable and user friendly space.

City moves closer to boosting downtown
by Freddy Monares, staff writer Jul 20, 2017

The Belgrade City Council is in the process of designating its downtown area as an Urban Renewal District, or URD, to try and attract more business and improve Belgrade’s core. The URD would allow the city to start a Tax Increment Financing program, which when established creates a tax baseline for the city. Any income from new developments in the area like new businesses, property additions and increases in property taxes would be considered a surplus beyond that baseline and would be deposited into a special account controlled by the city.

Rather than having to bond, or borrow, for projects in the area, the city is able to use the fund in the account once enough money has been collected for revitalization projects. These projects can include rehabilitation and removal of structures, land acquisitions and general redevelopment for the city. Janet Cornish and Lanette Windemaker of Community Development Services of Montana presented the information to the council on Monday.

During the presentation, Cornish said that the two had taken time prior to the meeting to identify conditions of blight, or deterioration, in the proposed area.The condition of the public streets, curbs and sidewalks in the area were identified as problematic, Cornish said. Lighting, vacant and unmaintained areas, vehicles backing into the right of way and lack of connecting sidewalks, she said, were also reported as problems for the downtown area. These are some projects that can be funded by this new designation without the city doing anything different.

“Projects and programs that are funded using this mechanism might not have a public purpose. In other words, it’s for the community to achieve its goals in terms of revitalization or economic development in the area concerned,” Cornish said.

Cornish said by creating this URD, the city would gain a new revenue stream without changing any tax structures. This gives the city a new tool to finance projects like upgrading infrastructure that could attract new businesses to the area. Dean Prince, resident of Belgrade, provided public comment during the hearing on Monday. He said the city is the next best place to live in the last best place.

“We want to see Belgrade improve and we want to see Belgrade put on the map,” he said.

During the discussion Mayor Russell Nelson asked council members to write down any questions they may have before the next city council meeting. Cornish and Windemaker gave the city council a timeline to establish the URD. At the Sept. 5 city council meeting, council members should adopt a resolution of necessity, and that would be included in the city’s growth policy. City council members unanimously passed all items on their discussion agenda at the meeting. Including a resolution to conduct the general elections in November by mail ballot.
Source: City moves closer to boosting downtown | Municipal |