UR PLAN BRINGS QUESTIONS
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URBAN RENEWAL DEBATE 4-1-09 LMS

A restated plan proposed by Salmon’s Urban Renewal Agency, also known as the Salmon River Development Agency, was tabled for the time being by the Salmon City Council at its April 1 meeting. The motion to table the plan included a clause saying Urban Renewal can continue working on its current projects until another work session is held to find a plan that can be agreed upon by the council and the agency.

The decision came after much discussion and an account of a council work session held the previous evening.

It was further decided the public should be offered some sort of forum in which to comment. It was felt that waiting until the public hearing prior to adopting the Urban Renewal plan as an ordinance is too late in the process. Rules of an official work session allow the public to attend but not to participate in the discussions.

A town hall meeting was suggested and City Attorney John McKinney will check state law to see if that can be done. He said an Urban Renewal agency is, “…a creature of statutes.” Codes applying to Urban Renewal are not in the realm of common law, they are under separate statute. One of the most controversial aspects of the agency has always been its powers of eminent domain which McKinney said is not something created locally. He said those powers came with the state statutes set up for the agency when the legislature created the Urban Renewal option for cities in the late 1960’s.

According to McKinney the March 31st meeting was a good one however individuals tended to focus on their own topics and with no facilitator to guide it, the meeting did not solve what should have been solved. He mentioned many aspects of Urban Renewal’s current activities that have to be faced and seen through to completion including the environmental clean-up of Town Square properties.

McKinney said there are many unknowns regarding Urban Renewal powers since there are so few case-law references. He said there is a Rexburg Urban Renewal case before the Supreme Court that could bring forth many new decisions.

The City Council decision to table Urban Renewal’s restated plan will allow time to decide on the proper legal avenue for public participation as well as to find answers to the many questions raised.

Councilman Ken Gutzman told the Urban Renewal board members in attendance that he realized the board took a lot of heat the night before from the council but that it was not meant to be against them individually. He thanked them for all their hard work.

In December of 1998 the Salmon City Council approved a resolution to create a local Urban Renewal District. It was announced at the time that adoption of the district kept a commitment the city made in obtaining a $500,000 block grant for downtown development in that it showed the city was actively taking steps towards generating its own resources for future local improvements.

The block grant was used for the Main Street’s Victorian style street lamps, trees, tree wells and brick work on sidewalks.

The Urban Renewal Agency began operating with a ten year plan of action. That plan expired last year and the board has developed a restated plan to cover the next nine years of the agency’s pre-determined life span. Introduction of the plan is what brought up the many questions for which both the council and agency are endeavoring to find answers.


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