Robin Williamson: Mayor's plan leaves downtown efforts dead in the water

This week, the three men on the Carson City Board of Supervisors hit the Redevelopment Authority with a gut punch. They voted, en bloc, to require the meager Downtown Redevelopment budget to repay the $2 million used from landfill proceeds to stimulate the redevelopment of the aging, empty Wal-Mart building in the new South Carson Redevelopment district.

This action will effectively empty the coffers of the downtown redevelopment budget and put on hold all the ongoing efforts of the seven downtown consortium volunteer groups working on everything from business development to clean-up to transportation issues and civic investment.

During the meeting Mayor Marv Teixeira discussed using the $2 million payback for capital improvement projects throughout the city. But after the meeting, the mayor and Supervisor Pete Livermore touted this payback effort as a way to fund a pond in Fuji Park or roofing improvements on city buildings. These projects were never discussed during the public meeting, but apparently private conversations have been held about these projects since both were very familiar with them.

In the initial public discussions about redevelopment participating in the rehabilitation of the former Wal-Mart building, the $2 million was to be repaid by the sales tax generated by the Burlington Coat Factory store, estimated to be about $300,000 per year. The logic was that these sale tax funds would not be generated without the participation of redevelopment, and that the funds would be repaid to the general fund within eight years.

Supervisor Shelly Aldean pointed out that the Mayor's proposal was essentially "double-dipping." The city general fund would get the sales tax revenue, none going to the Redevelopment Authority, and also would get $2 million repaid from the Redevelopment Authority.

As chairman of the Redevelopment Authority, I have worked with staff and residents to generate interest and enthusiasm for our downtown. Working in public with our residents, we have developed a plan and are trying to implement this plan. The recent successes in the downtown with the Saturday Farmer's Market, the Fridays at Third, the Pop-up Park, and the upcoming Rockin' the Square have delighted attendees. We have heard that locals are key to a downtown success and we are attracting locals to these events to spread the word that downtown is becoming vibrant and exciting.

We have also created a Downtown Consortium of interested volunteers on seven different workgroups who are due to present their recommendations to the Board on Oct. 2 at 6 p.m. The seven workgroups have short and long term recommendations for issues concerning the downtown and would expect their suggestions to at least have some chance of being implemented. With no funds, their hopes may be limited.

At the Oct. 16 Board meeting, I have asked the Board to consider and act upon the policies and procedures we suggested during a July 31 workshop. Again, these policies expect there will be some funding available for programming, incentives, and infrastructure. This may not be the case after the actions on Thursday.

I have always said in redevelopment it seems like we take two steps forward and one step back. We are at the mercy of the economic realities of the area, and the challenges facing businesses, large and small. But we have always managed to forge ahead, with the support of the city officials and the energy of our residents. It seems that this time, the challenge is in city hall and the impediment is the short-sighted vision of some electeds.

Robin Williamson is Ward 1 Supervisor and Chairman of the Carson City Redevelopment Authority


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