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Talent's Gateway could get aid from extending urban renewal

The Talent Urban Renewal Agency could extend its life in order to get the maximum amount of tax revenues allowed by law as it works to reach an agreement on development of its Gateway project.

The agency is scheduled to cease operation in July 2019.

“There’s a lot of flexibility that’s available to the board,” agency attorney Dan Thorndike told board members in early May. In earlier decades, urban renewal agencies adhered to predetermined end dates, but maximum debt level is now used, he said.

TURA’s maximum allowable debt is $17 million, and the agency has used about $13.8 million of that amount. Termination in July 2019 would mean the agency would forego $1.8 million in tax increment funding, money that might be used for the Gateway project.

“The choice is whether to leave $1.8 million on the table at the current termination date or to continue,” said Thorndike.

TURA purchased 4.23 acres of land on the southwest corner of Highway 99 and West Valley View Road in late 2016 and is in negotiation on the property’s use with Development of Southern Oregon headed by Jerryck Murrey.

“It’s been heavy on my mind for a long time how to extend the project,” said Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood, TURA board chair. The City Council serves as the agency’s board of directors.

In November, TURA entered into an exclusive agreement with Development of Southern Oregon to consider site development following a competitive process. A state transportation growth management grant is paying for preparation of a final conceptual plan that will be presented by land planner Walker Marcy in mid-July.

A final agreement is in the works. A tentative timeline calls for review of a draft development and dispositions agreement June 20 and review of a final draft Aug. 1.

Board Vice Chairman Ryan Pederson says a final agreement may be signed in late summer. The board and developer looked at concepts in an executive session held during April.

“It looks like we will see some workforce and senior housing and mixed-use spaces,” said Pederson. Plans also showed a building that might be either a brew pub or a maker space.

“There would be a nice, open space and plaza space to share with gatherings downtown,” said Pederson. “It would help bring more residents to downtown as well as create more patronage for the downtown businesses.”

Urban renewal agencies receive the increase in property taxes after a district is established to undertake improvement projects. As a result, other tax-funded entities, such as the city, school district and fire district, forego increases during that period. Consultation is required with the other taxing districts if urban renewal considers extension, but their approval is not required.

TURA had negotiated with the Talent Irrigation District to obtain its property for a roundabout to link West Valley View Road to Main Street. The TID property was needed to complete the third leg off the roundabout, but TID rejected the city’s offer in March 2017.

The agency obtained the Gateway property, which might provide part of the third leg. An access road off the roundabout will be incorporated into the project to help create a third leg, but a portion of the TID property still would be needed to connect with Wagner Street, Pederson said.

TURA has invested about $1.9 million in the Gateway project so far for land purchase and consultant fees. Development of Southern Oregon had asked that it be given the land in exchange for developing it.

Development of Southern Oregon and TURA are exploring financial possibilities. Those include a write-down where TURA discounts the land sale price, a state “vertical housing” tax abatement program that encourages mixed-use development or TURA funding of system development charges or other costs.

TURA will participate financially only if its investment is needed to make the project financially feasible and if it will generate substantial return on investment, the agency’s website states.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.