OpenCDA

April 12, 2013

Here They Go Again

Filed under: General,The City's Pulse — mary @ 2:54 pm

Mary Souza’s Newsletter   -1

It’s been a long time since we talked about LCDC, and I know you’ll be thrilled to hear what they’re doing with your property tax dollars.  Our County Clerk,  Cliff Hayes, just released the yearly report of Urban Renewal money, so let’s look at LCDC’s portion:

More than $540,000 dollars in property tax that would normally have gone to NIC, went to LCDC instead.  And if you include all the urban renewal districts in Kootenai County, the total diverted away from NIC was almost $1million.  My, my, I bet the college would like to have that income right now.  Oh, wait, they do get their whole income because you and I and every other taxpayer in the County pay more on our NIC taxes to help make up for the million that goes to urban renewal. 

LCDC has two “districts” (technically called Revenue Allocation Areas) which are very large.  One district includes most of downtown plus NW Blvd and up 4th St.  The other district goes way out on Seltice Way.

Every single piece of property in these two huge districts has a portion of their property taxes going to LCDC, whether the property got any help from LCDC or not.  This tax portion is called the “increment” and is the increase in the property taxes from the time these two districts were started back in 1997 and 2003, until now.

Have your property taxes increased since 1997?  If you live in one of the LCDC districts, all of the increase goes to LCDC, not to the City of CdA, Kootenai County, NIC,  Highway Districts, 911, etc., as it normally would without urban renewal.

And the unelected board of LCDC decides what to do with that public tax money.

The fact that LCDC gathers this money is the reason you don’t get to Vote on many of the major projects in our city.  They don’t need your permission.  The City can just go to LCDC for the money that was taken from you, without your approval, and use it for whatever project they desire.

Hence we see big money from LCDC pumped into McEuen, without your Vote, and now they are talking about putting $10 million toward a Sports / Events Center in Riverstone.  It’s supposedly for NIC but would be a public – private partnership.  Keep your eye on this one.

LCDC’s total tax increment income for 2012 was $5 ½ Million, which is down a tiny bit from the previous year.   $1.5 Million of that would normally have gone to Kootenai County, and $3 Million would have gone to the City of CdA.

You can read the full report from the County Clerk by clicking here.
In other news, there are some important meetings coming up:

Tomorrow, Saturday, April 13, at 12:30 pm in the Community Room of the CdA Library, there’s a meeting about the County’s proposed new Land Use rules and regulations (ULUC).  If you have any land in the County or care about private property rights, it will be important for you to attend.

NIC is having public meetings about where they should build their PTE facility (Professional Technical).  Should it be on their regular campus or should it be out near the KTEC high school where NIC has some land?  There are three dates for these meetings:  Monday April 15, Monday April 29 and Monday May 6.  All are from 7-8 pm in the Student Union Bldg at NIC.  (The first two are in the Lake CdA Room and the last one is in the Driftwood Bay Room.)  Please try your best to show up for one of them and give your opinion.  We have two new Trustees at NIC who really want your input!

And this next Tuesday night is the CdA City Council Meeting, starting at 6pm in the Library Community Room.  You can come in person or watch on Channel 19.  There’s an interesting Agenda item about the American Legion Baseball field.  Remember “equal or better”?

So, dear Readers, that’s enough for right now.  There are many things brewing about town and I expect we’ll have some interesting times coming up.  Have a great weekend.  I will be out walking, passing out info for the conservative candidates in the CdA School Board election on May 21.  Hope it doesn’t rain too hard!

22 Comments

  1. Mary,

    Your post said, “The fact that LCDC gathers this money is the reason you don’t get to Vote on many of the major projects in our city. They don’t need your permission. The City can just go to LCDC for the money that was taken from you, without your approval, and use it for whatever project they desire.” I believe a more descriptive and accurate name for the LCDC would be The First Unregulated Bank of Idaho.

    Comment by Bill — April 12, 2013 @ 3:02 pm

  2. Yes, Bill, the key word being “Unregulated”. And no oversight. What did the State Supreme Court call them?–an independent entity.

    An unelected, unregulated, unsupervised, independent entity that uses taxpayer money.

    Comment by mary — April 12, 2013 @ 3:08 pm

  3. See my December 2011 post titled Killing a Monster.

    Idaho’s urban renewal agencies are a creation of the state legislature. The Supreme Court only fixes “unconstitutional.” It doesn’t fix “stupid and reckless.”

    Comment by Bill — April 12, 2013 @ 3:30 pm

  4. Plain and simple, LCDC is a publicly financed real estate development corporation. That in mind, we need to look no further than a few of their real estate holdings to see what kind of developer they are.

    For example, LCDC owns the two houses at the end of Young Ave. across from the new City Hall parking lot at the base of Tubbs. Shortly after purchasing the homes, LCDC rezoned the property to high density residential. Since spot zoning is illegal, they ran a “ribbon” down the middle of 8th St. so that the new zoning would be “contiguous” to other high density residential across from City Hall – therefore legal in the eyes of the City.

    The houses weren’t in the greatest shape when purchased and have continually been allowed to fall into disrepair. I know for a fact, that the only money LCDC has spent on either of the homes has been a temporary fix to the roof on the 4-plex, and that was only because water was running down the interior wall of one of the units–the unit that houses four young kids. Why would any competent landlord allow his rentals to become an eyesore, substandard housing?

    Then comes the water pressure booster station on 8th St. (the little yellow with green roof building). I also know for a fact that the new booster pump installed was twice the horsepower that the area needed; the area is already fully built-out with exception to LCDC’s dives, which as noted were rezoned through an obvious end run around City zoning code. Every other developer in this town (well, except Duane) would be required to pay for upgrades to infrastructure due to increased impacts associated with any given development at the time of building permit issuance. Why would the City spend the extra money to oversize the pump?

    Now comes the construction of the new City Hall parking lot. Along with the new lot came the elimination of street parking for the six units in the two houses; they can only be accessed from behind via the dirt alley. Of course the City did promptly grade and widen the ally in conjunction with the new parking lot, but–now the residents of the two homes need to park on 8th St. in the Winter months because the City does not plow the ally and the residents can’t afford, nor does the landlord (LCDC) pay for snow removal. Keep in mind that 8th St. for an entire block doesn’t even have sidewalks let alone adequate width for bumper to bumper parking in the midst of a snow storm. Add to that the new path “trailhead” coming from the base of Tubbs terminates at Young and 8th, and you have recipe for disaster. Why would the City create such an obvious danger?

    The lone house on that block not owned by LCDC is the big “pretty” well maintained home on the corner (724 Young). Ever since LCDC bought the other two homes they have repeatedly approached the out-of-state owner to sell. He has refused so far, but I also know for a fact that he would trade for a new, corner unit condo on the same lot. LCDC in concert with the City has used every tack in the book to portray his property as diminished in value over the years and set the stage for that reality: The grading plan adopted by the City for the re-constuction of Young clearly stated that the rock wall and stairs leading to the front of 724 were to be “protected.” Do a drive-by and you’ll see how well that worked. The mailman (actually she is a woman) wouldn’t even deliver mail to the front porch mailboxes anymore because the City, using LCDC borrowed money eliminated “legal” access to the front of all three homes on Young, ergo, the new city-installed mailboxes near the ally.

    The next step in driving the price down of 724 Young will be followed with the realization that the intersection of 8th and Young is unsafe–due precisely because of actions of the LCDC financed, City approved dead-end trail and forced street parking on 8th. The road right-of-way on the 8th St. side of 724 is about 10-feet from the side, now primary access (remember the City ripped out the steps to the front)door. What better way to drive down the price of an old house? Remove what’s left of the 80-year old shade trees, make the side yard unusable for all practical purposes, and replace the trees, grass, and old 2 1/2 foot rock retaining wall, with a 6-foot high cement wall that due to its height, will need a fence on top.

    LCDC will no doubt fund the widening, sidewalk, wall and fence–after all, they will see it as just another investment into the long-term development strategy to acquire 724, (through reducing it market value)so they can in turn sell the entire “impoverished” block to the normal friends of LCDC. Public subsidization of for private development at it finest; they have created a mini-slum on the surface while at the same time enhanced water, sewer (yes, the sewer mains to the ill-maintained homes were replaced during the parking lot construction), sidewalks, a major trail out the “new” front doors, a brand new $25-million park across the street, real close to the new dog park, a “new” retaining wall to hold up those “new” condos–all paid for with tax dollars that will no doubt be for the sole benefit of the future buyer of the block. The City and LCDC will applaud the sale – fixing urban blight and all.

    So back to my original premise that LCDC is nothing more than a publicly financed real estate development corporation and the question: What kind of developer are they? They are slum lords of a unique breed. They will let their rentals fall into disrepair, they will attract tenants that follow the disrepair, they will purposely diminish the value of adjacent properties in order to drive the price down so they can acquire at rock bottom cost, they will sell to only insiders at “impoverished” prices, and they will do all this on the taxpayers dime. Or in other words the headline will read, “LCDC sells nuisance meth house to lowest bidder who promises to clean-up neighborhood”.

    Pathetic.

    One last note: The tenant of 724 is packing to move. The woman who has maintained, kept tidy, kept the lawn watered, kept a bowl of water for passing dogs and greeted every jogger and walker with a huge smile and a sincere “good morning” will soon be replaced with “vacation renters” or in other words, another unregulated, party house/motel, as is planned for the house being remodeled directly across from and to the east of 724. No sidewalk there either – have I said enough? Maybe just one more cup of coffee.

    Comment by old dog — April 13, 2013 @ 10:03 am

  5. old dog

    If you take a look at most of the rentals owned by any of the stakeholders you will see that they are slums as well. Even the commercial buildings have leaky roofs, no exterior maintenance, failed windows, poor sidewalk upkeep, etc.

    The LCDC also owns commercial buildings with for rent signs on them, which should thoroughly upset any building owner in town since it is direct competition. And the LCDC has lots in the downtown core that where intended for parking or so we were told.
    ;)

    You are spot on with your assessment.

    Comment by concerned citizen — April 13, 2013 @ 10:46 am

  6. old dog: Do you think more residential condos are coming to Young Ave.?

    Comment by LTR — April 13, 2013 @ 11:35 am

  7. LTR – Do I think?

    Not to show my whole hand, but I am a Development Consultant with decades of experience in north Idaho, specifically within Kootenai County. I also have intimate knowledge of the inner (uber) workings of the intersection and block to which I used to exemplify the “tip of the iceberg” related to how LCDC has managed this one land purchase and potential expansion of this one holding.

    The infrastructure has been laid – from zoning, to water, to sewer, to rear-entry access only, to installing a bike path that leads to the future front porch of the future zillion-dollar park, replete with poop scoops – all they need is a bank-roll (that I am guessing has been in the works since LCDC bought the two dives), and a seemingly “disinterested” third-party shill for the package to be complete.

    Hook, line, sinker. LCDC caught a bunch of Sucker Fish; the taxpayers who unbeknownst to them funded the whole fishing trip to begin with. Pathos – the Greek god of pathetic, ineffective, and unregulated transfer of public funds into the hands of the profiteers is alive and well right there in the shadow of City Hall.

    Comment by old dog — April 13, 2013 @ 2:50 pm

  8. Thanks, Old Dog, for your wise assessment of what is going on. None of us wants to believe that our government could be so intentional about devaluing a citizen’s private property, but the LCDC is made up of unelected people who have no one looking over their shoulder. This is NOT the way good government acts.

    Comment by mary — April 13, 2013 @ 3:30 pm

  9. Thank you for your reply old dog!

    I never pictured additional condos around the base of Tubbs Hill but I can visualize them now. The $20M park and new library will attract lots of retired folks with lots of money to spend in the downtown core.

    Eventually all I can see those who live near this area will be forced to move, through the monopoly activities of LCDC and the City, once they lose their sunlight, on street parking and driveway access.

    The City has made reaching the Boat Launch at 3rd St. so difficult that they will soon say it’s best to close it down for the safety of pedestrians. Do you think the boat launch and parking will eventually be privatized for the condo owners?

    Comment by LTR — April 13, 2013 @ 3:32 pm

  10. An alert reader just sent me a comment from the SR blog, where they are talking about my newsletter. LCDC’s new PR person Keith Erickson posted this comment there:

    KeithErickson • a day ago

    “Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation in this post. Mary has her views and we respect that; but we’d appreciate it if she would check out the facts before she posts her anti-urban renewal rhetoric. Money is not being “diverted” from NIC or any other taxing district. The dollars going to statewide urban renewal agencies to spur economic development comes from new tax revenue generated from urban renewal projects. Mary, please check your facts before posting inaccurate comments.”

    I will give Keith points for using his real name as he blogs, but other than that I think he’s way off base. And I’ll tell you exactly why: First Keith does the usual blanket insult of “there’s a lot of misinformation…please get your facts straight…”, but he doesn’t give any examples. Then he goes on to say that the urban renewal dollars only come from “NEW TAX REVENUE GENERATED FROM URBAN RENEWAL PROJECTS.” Wrong Keith.

    Urban renewal money in CdA comes from the tax increment (increase in property taxes from the time the LCDC districts were started until now) on EVERY SINGLE property in the very large districts, whether they received money / help from LCDC or not.

    Here’s a real life example: Kathy Sims owns CdA Honda. Her property is in one of the LCDC districts. She built a new building a few years ago, WITHOUT ANY help or money from LCDC. Almost 100% of her property taxes on the new building goes to LCDC, not the city, county, college, etc.

    What say you, Keith? Do you have the courage to come on this site and counter this information?

    Comment by mary — April 13, 2013 @ 6:27 pm

  11. LTR – Do I think?

    Again, the fundamental groundwork for privatization has already been done adjacent to the boat launch. Traffic counts will be taken over the next couple of years that will show a substantial decrease in use, so why keep it open when there is a “higher and better” use of the land?

    Then add into the mix that the City’s finances are at a zero-balance account–hope payday comes soon accounting mode and the future becomes more clear. Tymesen [sp] can’t even spin with a straight face anymore how dire the situation is with regard to reserves and the proverbial “rainy day fund”. And low and behold, right there next to the boat launch is an example of a “higher and best use” that can save the day.

    I would guess somewhere in a prime office cantered over the lake are drawings of a couple more party barges sized exactly to fit along the existing pier after the launch is gone – makes perfect sense. The McKuen project has already designed the waiting area for departure and the gas fired BBQ pit upon return. Perfect planning.

    When the REAL cost of McKuen (and the rest of the perky, pet snowballing projects come to a head) they can all be lanced with a single check (or two). At what cost to the general public? How much of the infrastructure was laid on the backs of the taxpayers to the benefit of the future savior to the City’s current irresistible urge to buy, plant, paint, and add some more futuristic artistic bike-racks, etc?

    That headline will read, “Mr. H (or H II) Graciously Volunteers to Bring the City Out of Bankruptcy” – Legal Notice in Nickels Worth; “…in exchange all he wants is a mere acre next to where he already parks his big boats and his customers take-up all the space anyway”.

    Hook, line, sinker – but nowhere to launch a boat? There just happens to be a beautiful potential launch site next to the Beach House, hmm, and the City has been toying with the idea of taking over Lakeshore Drive from the State, hmm. Wonder who owns that prime real estate? Wonder how that property was annexed into the City, hmm.

    It was in fact annexed through what is called a “ribbon annexation.” Also outlawed by the State (like the “ribbon” rezone of the LCDC property on Young) but more overt and directly tied to a specific person–who just happens to have an approved Planned Unit Development above the Beach House and who could use a bit more waterfront next to the zillion dollar park we paid for.

    Hmm? Land swap coming soon.

    Comment by old dog — April 13, 2013 @ 6:33 pm

  12. Mary,

    Whenever I get frustrated with Keith Erickson or Dave Olivera for that matter, I always remind myself of where they came from – The CDA Press; a slightly above minimum wage reporting job for a hack local newspaper (Note: hack is a word commonly used in the news biz)–and that going to work for LCDC was a huge promotion for Keith, and likewise Dave becoming a professional “blogger” was also considered (by him) as a promotion.

    Consider the source and let it roll off the back, just like a good duck would–if a Wood Duck could.

    Comment by old dog — April 13, 2013 @ 7:02 pm

  13. Good advice, Old Dog. Thank you. I just think these claims of “inaccuracies” have to be called. He should be asked to come up with specifics.

    And I bet that Keith Erickson really doesn’t understand how LCDC works; he probably just buys the company line because, as you imply, he just wants to keep his job.

    Comment by mary — April 13, 2013 @ 7:14 pm

  14. Mary,

    The LCDC supporters believe new growth would not happen without urban renewal. Building permit records will show the city has experienced an average of 3% to 3.5% growth every year without LCDC. I like Council Member Gookin’s comment about “generic growth” that naturally occurs and is fact.

    Comment by LTR — April 13, 2013 @ 8:51 pm

  15. Old Dog, Please define “ribbon annexation.” Thank you.

    Comment by Susie Snedaker — April 15, 2013 @ 7:17 am

  16. Susie,

    Good question, and I’m also eager to hear the answer. Old Dog may be referring to what has also been called shoestring annexation.

    Comment by Bill — April 15, 2013 @ 8:24 am

  17. There’s a great Letter to the Editor that was in the Press yesterday and is online this morning. It’s by Len Crosby who was the head of the Post Falls Urban Renewal Agency for many years. I think he knows what he’s talking about!

    Len wrote the letter to compliment Cliff Hayes, our County Clerk, for his detailed report on where urban renewal dollars are coming from. Len says this:

    “Where did this money come from? Your property tax dollars!…How was that money replaced? Each of the taxing entities that lost money allocated to Urban Renewal had to increase their levy rate and that increased your property tax bill.”

    You can read his very good, short letter here.

    Comment by mary — April 15, 2013 @ 8:27 am

  18. Maybe someone should send a copy of Len’s letter to Keith Erickson, the new PR guy over at LCDC!

    Comment by mary — April 15, 2013 @ 8:33 am

  19. Susie and Bill,

    “Shoestring” and “ribbon” are synonymous. Best described with the case that led the State to prohibit: At one point in time you couldn’t get a liquor license unless your business was within city limits. Curley’s, on Highway 53 was (then)about 2-miles from the City of Hauser corporate limits. The City wanted the fees and taxes, Curley’s of course wanted the liquor license.

    So the City then annexed via a “ribbon” that ran down the middle of the County road to take in the single parcel. Deemed legit at the time, but not now. Now, “real” properties need to be contiguous, parcel line to parcel line, not a shoestring, ribbon, or other end around the intent of annexation rules that were meant to promote a logical outward expansion of city limits.

    Back to the the Beachhouse/Hagadone Planned Unit Development. There was no conceivable way that Duane’s still undeveloped PUD (above the Beachhouse) would have been approved under County rules at the time. So instead, he was approved a “shoestring” annexation from what is now his condo site to the Beachhouse, then across the highway taking in the parking lot and two of the three homes before going up the hill to the PUD land.

    I don’t know if the City has “fixed” this since, but that is how it was done then and it was well after Statute was amended. I haven’t looked into it recently, but it could be when the City bought the Fernan property from the Mayor of Fernan, (and Sandy’s cousin I think) CDA annexed that land and then made Duane’s property comply with State rules. Regardless of whether or not they “fixed” the ribbon issue since it was annexed, that is how it was done.

    Interesting sidenote(s): One of the three homes on the far side of the Beachhouse parking lot was recently (about 1 year ago) annexed into the City. The reason? The homeowner illegally built a garage without a permit and could not meet County setback and coverage standards–so he proposed annexation into the City to avoid compliance to County Code.

    When asked by the Planning Commission if the homeowners new illegally built garage would comply with City standards, the Planner didn’t know–but the Commission recommended annexation anyway. That one of course is on our fine City cable network for your viewing.

    Second little note: The City Planner who handled the annexation case cited above presented to the Planning Commission that the subject property was adjacent to Hagadone’s “approved” Planned Unit Development up the hill. All developments have expiration dates, that one has not been developed and should have expired many years ago–unless then maybe the City made an exception. But then they wouldn’t do that now would they?

    Comment by old dog — April 15, 2013 @ 10:15 am

  20. Old Dog, Thank you. I remember the issue/hearing as I was a Planning Commissioner at the time and was the author of the findings. I will ask Dave Yadon to pull the file for my review. I remember that the annexation of all properties from the golf course to the eastern most property line of the Beach House included the PUD across the road at the base of Potlatch Hill. I will post my findings.

    Comment by Susie Snedaker — April 16, 2013 @ 8:31 am

  21. old dog,

    Thank you for the detailed explanation. Great information!

    Comment by Bill — April 16, 2013 @ 9:36 am

  22. Susie,

    If you want to get to the meat of the annexation, you should request and review the actual Ordinance that annexed the property; that is the required legal method for annexation of lands versus whatever anyone at the City will tell you or whatever any on-line (usually generalized) map will depict.

    You might also want to review the Planning Commission hearing file from about a year ago when the other home on the far end of the Beach House parking lot was annexed. That will (should) lead to the baseline info from which to collect other information.

    Comment by old dog — April 16, 2013 @ 12:58 pm

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