Public hearing about creation of URA on Feb. 21

RBC | The Board of Trustees of the Town of Meeker is exploring the creation of an Urban Renewal Authority (URA) to assist with economic development and community development projects. A public hearing to discuss the creation of the URA is scheduled for the evening of Feb. 21, at 7 p.m. at the town hall. Although URA’s are common economic development tools, this brief article will highlight the reasons for its establishment so the public can be better informed. For a more in depth discussion, please attend the public hearing, or contact the Town’s economic development consultants, Better City, at 801-332-9006. The Colorado Municipal League is also a good source of information on URA’s and their website is issues.aspx?taxid=11125
An Urban Renewal Authority is a tool created by the State of Colorado to assist municipalities to undertake difficult development and redevelopment projects that are important for the economic health of the community. Development and redevelopment is expensive, and the basic premise of a URA is to create financial tools to help fund projects without having to create new taxes. It utilizes existing tax rates to capture the incremental or additional tax that is created from a specific investment in a property (such as new property tax created from a new building), and funnels a portion of it to the project to help cover the development costs.
Below are some of the most common questions regarding a URA, and brief responses:
1.Why does Meeker need a URA? The downturn of the natural gas industry has created real challenges for local business owners, especially those located in Downtown Meeker. While the new administration is enacting policies that should be helpful in terms of supporting the extraction industries, the existing small businesses will continue to face a risky and challenging operating environment until the local economy can diversify to include new economic anchors. Developing economic anchors is expensive, and a URA is the least expensive option to take a proactive approach in creating economic diversity through strategic projects. To wait for the market to fix itself is a very risky proposition, as no one knows exactly when the natural gas market will recover. In the words of a famous proverb, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago… the second best time is today.” Establishing a URA is planting a tree that will help bear economic fruit now and decades from now.
On another note, many other rural towns in Colorado are using URAs, including Rangely, Delta, Silt, Mead and others. Montrose is in the process of setting one up to help facilitate a large, catalytic project in its downtown.
2.Will the URA utilize eminent domain? The short answer is no. Technically speaking, a URA is allowed power from the state to conduct eminent domain on limited cases, just like the town and many taxing districts. However, it is such a controversial topic that the town and Better City are committed to not utilize this mechanism. If a project can’t come to willing terms with landowners, then a different site will be pursued.
3.Will the URA raise my taxes? No. A URA is not authorized to raise taxes, and is only allowed to work with incremental tax generated by previously approved tax rates within a specific project area. Residents will not see any new assessment on their tax bill if the URA were to be established.
4.How will the URA be utilized for the Meeker Adventure Center? The Meeker Adventure Center (MAC) is a proposed project that will help catalyze economic development and industry diversification within the Town. It has received positive reviews from local residents, elected officials, and potential industry participants. It is a difficult project though, and will require a special level of collaboration between the public and private sector. The URA will provide a funding source to help pay for some of the improvements and the costs of building the MAC. As stated previously, this funding source comes from the taxes that the MAC itself will be paying, and will not come from other residents or businesses.
An Urban Renewal Authority is a powerful tool, and is another potential arrow in the economic development quiver to help ensure a prosperous Meeker.