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Commission studies redevelopment

Sheila Gardner

Blight in Douglas County?

The word conjures up abandoned buildings, broken windows, peeling paint and weed-choked parking lots; however, county officials are looking at the term as the key to Douglas County’s first redevelopment agency.

“This area doesn’t look like the Bronx, but it doesn’t have to to be blighted,” said Keith Ruben, Douglas County senior planner. “Blight can mean that the area isn’t as economically functional as it can be or that it is posing a health and safety hazard.”

As defined by Nevada Revised Statute, blight can mean underutilized vacant land, poor spacing between homes and businesses or infrastructure problems in neighborhoods, Ruben said.

“Redevelopment is an economic development tool to revitalize areas that have infrastructure problems such as road problems or poor planning with development setbacks,” he explained.

County commissioners have scheduled a two-hour workshop on redevelopment Thursday at their meeting at the Douglas County Administration building at Stateline.

Ruben said if commissioners create a redevelopment agency, Douglas would be the only area in the state to operate such a board at a county level.

“It’s a little bit unusual for a county to have a redevelopment agency. All the others in the state are in cities like Mesquite, Reno and Carson City,” Ruben said. “We’re unique because we don’t have any cities in Douglas County, but if we don’t do it, it probably won’t get done.”

He said a redevelopment agency can be appointed or the county commissioners can sit as the agency. Funding comes through operations, not the county general fund.

“Initially, a redevelopment agency could borrow money from the county and pay it back once the projects get going,” Ruben said.

“Some resources are available that are unique to do public improvements and planning. A redevelopment agency can borrow from the federal government, state and private resources. The agency can accept grants or loans from the county and issue bonds,” he said.

A redevelopment agency can use tax-increment financing which is a tool available to pay for bond indebtedness, Ruben said.

“You establish what your current assessed valuation is for a project and cap it at today’s rate,” he said. “As the projects go in and improve the area, increased valuation occurs as you get commercial activities and the value goes higher.

“The difference between when the project first started and the new rate can be used to finance your bond,” Ruben said.

He said a redevelopment agency can form a partnership with developers and business representatives to look at projects which might be suitable.

“You have to make sure you don’t have any net loss in affordable housing,” he said. “You have to provide for the people who live there. If you’re going to displace anybody, you have to have relocation assistance.”

Ruben said it will be up to the commissioners to decide if they want to get involved.

“It would take a lot of public hearings to establish project areas and the kinds of projects that are economically viable,” he said. “It takes a ‘go’ or ‘no-go’ decision to decide if you want the government involved in this sort of thing.”

The commissioners’ meeting begins at 1 p.m. at Stateline. The board will return to the old courtroom of the Douglas County Administration Building in Minden at 6 p.m.

Agenda items in Minden include re-establishing the Douglas County Water District, an update on legislative items and a one-hour discussion and possible action on the county complex.