Monday, March 08, 2010

Notice of An Important Emerald City RDA "Blight Hearing" Session

Has there been an attempt by some Ogden City officials to keep the lumpencitizens out of the loop?

Thanks to a tip from Gentle Reader Disgusted in a lower article comments section, we learn that the Ogden City Redevlopment Agency suddenly has a matter on calender for tomorrow, (Tuesday, March 9, 2010) which appears to be the latest chapter in Boss Godfrey's new obsession to declare a 4-block portion of east Washington Blvd., adjacent to the Ogden Junction, a blighted area:
5. Common Consent:
a. East Washington Urban Renewal Area. Proposed Resolution 2010-1 making a finding of blight regarding the proposed East Washington Urban Renewal Project Area and proposed Resolution 2010-2 selecting the East Washington Urban Renewal Project Area in the East Central Urban Renewal Survey Area and authorizing the preparation of a draft project area plan, including a project area budget, pursuant to Section 17C-2-102(1)(a)(ii)(B)(II) and (III), Utah Code Annotated 1953, as amended. (Set public hearing for April 13, 2010 – voice vote. (Link added]
That's right, folks. Boss Godfrey apparently contends that all those architecturally classic and mostly well-maintained buildings on the east side of Washington Blvd., (many of which are vacant due to economic forces related to the still-lingering "Great Recession,") are "blighted."

The last time this matter came up on the RDA calender the matter was wisely dropped by the RDA Board. But just as we predicted, it's right back on calender again, with very short (and obscure) notice to the public (and possibly to affected property owners.)

We'll go on record right now as agreeing with Gentle Reader Disgusted's above-linked take on this:
My comment to the City Council is what the heck is this item up for a vote? Why can’t you at least give some more details as to what is being discussed and voted on here? If you are truly the City Council that wants to add transparency to city governance why are you allowing communications about what you’re doing allowed to go out in such vague form on the topics? Why can’t you have your staff take what is given to them by the administration and add some meat to the description before you forward such information on to the public? Or do you really care about transparency?
According to the provisions of Utah Code Seaction Section 17C-2-102(1)(a)(ii)(B)(II) and (III), which is cited in tomorrow evening's RDA meeting agenda, the RDA Board is at minimum required to hold a a properly-noticed full public hearing prior to making a finding of blight. Here's the operative statutory language:
17C-2-102. Process for adopting urban renewal project area plan -- Prerequisites -- Restrictions.
(1) (a) In order to adopt an urban renewal project area plan, after adopting a resolution under Subsection 17C-2-101(1) the agency shall:...
(B) provide notice of a blight hearing as required under Part 5, Urban Renewal Notice Requirements; and
(C) hold a blight hearing as provided in Section 17C-2-302...
Now in fairness to the Council and the Administration we'll confess we don't know whether the above statutory prerequisites have been met, quietly and behind the scenes. For all we know, all proper notices have gone out, and Tuesday's RDA session will turn out to be a full-blown evidentiary hearing, complete with steely-eyed property owners, cranky lawyers, PowerPoint presentations and everything.

Nevertheless, Gentle Reader Disgusted does make a very important related point on the issue of public transparency, we think. The council's notice to an interested public who might want to attend and speak out at a formal "blight hearing" is hopelessly vague, we believe. And yes, the general public has an important stake in this too... and a cynic would even suggest that the Council really may not wish to have the sometimes "meddlesome" general public attend this hearing.

It seems to us that if the Council had meant to properly inform the lumpencitizens of the importance of the matter which comes before the RDA Board tomorrow evening, it would have phrased the public notice in plain English, like this:
Proposed Resolution 2010-1 making a finding of blight (in preparation for a possible subsequent eminent domain condemnation action) in the area encompassing a full 4 downtown city blocks in the heart of Ogden's Central Business District, from 20th to 24th; and east from Washington to Adams Avenue
Instead, the Council phrased it in obtuse legelese.

So what say out gentle readers about this? Is it possible that the above-linked public hearing notice was actually drafted by the Mayor's office, to keep lumpencitizens out of the loop? Are we witnessing once again the flounderings of a brand-new City Council which yet remains susceptible (in its fledgling innocence) to Boss Godfrey's procedural maneuverings? Is it possible that Boss Godfrey is "trying on" the new Council Leadership to see whether he can slip a little something by them?

So many questions... so few answers.

At any rate, the word is now out. And yes... from the evidence it appears that Tuesday's hearing will likely consist of a full blown "blight hearing."

Hopefully more than a few of our own readers will be motivated to attend tomorrow's tantalizing RDA session.

And with a little luck, maybe a few of them will report back here.

We'll leave the lower comments section open for any post RDA session reports of course, as always.

22 comments:

Stan The Man said...

East Washington Blvd. - Blight, what a craptacular proposal! Gimme a break. Is the Ogden City admin dead set on destroying not only the financial sustainability of this town, but the physical quality as well?

constitutional rights said...

since Ogden has the most felons in the state, including mayor Godfrey this will be a ghost town and Godfrey already has a good start on that.

althepal said...

What the Council needs to realize is that a blight designation places a cloud on the title of every property in the so-designated area. Not only does this diminish the property's value and marketability, it also dissuades prospective lessees from renting in the area.

If the City Council is seriously considerating branding the east side of Washington Boulevard as blighted, they need to remember that such a decision could have relatively devastating unintended economic consequences for property owners in the area.

Biker Babe said...

Didn't they just use Federal money to partially spruce up a couple of those buildings?

js,
BB

blackrulon said...

Yhis is off topic but I am curious. On the mayor's blog of January 19th 2010 the following statement was posted. "What this means is the formula for economic development is working," Patterson said. "The 7000 added jobs, the hundreds of millions in new buildings, and scores of new companies within the Junction, along 25th Street, and throughout the downtown Ogden area, are all making a difference." I would appreciate a fuller explantation of this statement.

Ogden Resident said...

Can the city really afford to be taking on another project at this time?

Can we the residents be expected to fund another project?

Hopefully our City Council is smart enough to realizes that in order to undertake this project that the city will have to divert funds from our currently lagging services, or take on more debt, or raise taxes or fees.

Come on City Council how many projects can you expect us residents to pay for at the same time!

Dan S. said...

blackrulon,

That statement also appears in the city's latest utility bill newsletter insert. After receiving it a couple weeks ago, I filed a GRAMA request asking for records documenting the 7000 added jobs. I'll post something here when I get a response.

My guess is that all three statistics are literally correct when interpreted to mean as little as possible. So the 7000 jobs probably includes part-time and temporary jobs, and represents all new jobs created, regardless of how many have been lost over the same time period. New construction of commercial buildings in Ogden has probably totaled about $200 million over the last ten years if you count the Junction and BDO and everything else. And "scores" of businesses means approximately 40, which seems about right for downtown over the last ten years, again neglecting the businesses that have been lost.

more give aways said...

Here's another good one for the fine taxpayers of Ogden.

How do you feel about sending an Ogden Fire Department Ambulance staffed with two Ogden Firefighters to stay at the Washington Terrace Fire Department 24 hours a day 7 days a week to respond to Terrace medicals, and train Terrace Firefighters.And this at no cost to Terrace residents. And the big coincidence is that Ogden's Fire Chief Mike Mathieu lives in Washington Terrace.

They justify this by stating if we lose the Terrace contract to South Ogden Fire for medical coverage, that we will lose staffing in Ogden Fire because of the interfacility transfer revenues coming out of Ogden Regional Medical Center.

Jersey Jim said...

No surprises there, more giveaways. Godfrey wants to build a streetcar system that will mainly serve South Ogden.

Curmudgeon said...

As I recall, generally before cities do things like condemn large areas as "blighted" in preparation for eminent domain seizures --- particularly areas with operating businesses in them --- they usually have a developer lined up for a project ready to go. Or allegedly so. [Think of the eminent domain/blight declaration in Connecticut instance that triggered the Kelo decision.]

But I haven't heard anyone mention a particular project or development for whose benefit this Washington Blvd declaration of blight and eminent domain seizure would be made. All the agenda items does is speak vaguely about "authorizing the preparation of a draft project area plan, including a project area budget."

Surely the Administration isn't asking the Council to authorize all this on spec, is it? Or has a particular project [and developer] already been lined up to acquire the property once the city seizes it? If so, who is it, and what are the plans for the property? Anyone know? Does someone need to ask? Shouldn't that be discussed in some detail, and in a public forum, before a vote is takin on the "blight" declaration and on eminent domain proceedings?

Dan S. said...

As I recall, generally before cities do things like condemn large areas as "blighted" in preparation for eminent domain seizures --- particularly areas with operating businesses in them --- they usually have a developer lined up for a project ready to go.

You mean like with the River Project?

Curmudgeon said...

Dan:

Yup. That it all went wrong [as the project behind the Kelo case did as well] doesn't change the fact that the Administration pretty much had in mind what it expected to happen and who would make it happen --- the unfortunately chosen Mr. Lesham --- from the moment the city began negotiating to acquire properties in the project area, with the implied threat of eminent domain proceedings in the background to urge reluctant sellers to agree to sell.

So I'm wondering, what is the development plan the Administration has in mind for the Washington Blvd. redevelopment zone that it wants the Council to let it draw up and devise a budget for.

Seems to me something the SE should be digging out. Should have dug out and reported to its readers before the meeting. If the Mayor and Council are not going to provide full disclosure to the public in advance of the decision, however it goes, our Home Town Paper should. Hard to think of what a Home Town Paper is more for than things like that, que no?

Betty said...

This is such a bad idea, with so many consequences that can't be foretold (although we are all in the dark as to what the plan is, if there is one). Based on the description given in the Utah Code, it appears that this area could be legally designated as blight (although I completely disagree with that and it indeed SHOULD NOT be designated as such!).

blackrulon said...

This area was not considered blighted until Mayor Matthew Godfrey took office. Under his guidance and leadership we have grown to become a city of empty buildings and abandoned projects. If he attends tonights meeting he should bb held responsible for the decline during his term as coty leader. Does thos blighted area include the buildings refurbished with federal stimulus money? Where are my discount outlet stores I was told about last fall?

Dan S. said...

Curm,

I think you're confused about the history of the River Project. It was first declared blighted back around 2001, long before Gadi Leshem was in the picture. The mayor did have "visions" at that time which were widely discussed, but I don't remember there being any particular developer who was named (though I could be wrong). By 2004 the developer was supposed to be Cottonwood Partners. Leshem didn't show up on anyone's radar until 2005, and he wasn't publicly named as the developer of the River Project until late 2007.

Fireman Joe said...

Blackrulon-there is a sign in the windows "prime real estate available-call Kamie". Typical Godfrey try to sell it as prime while you are taking over as blighted. If it's available I guess the scratch and dent stores are not coming.

Curmudgeon said...

Dan:

OK, you're more informed on this than I am. But I thought [despite the blight designation] the city didn't acquire title to most properties in the RDA until a development plan had been adopted and developer had been lined up. If not, then I mis-remembered. [The city didn't proceed in the River Project instance via eminent domain proceedings as I recall.]

Most cities I've read about that declare blight as preparation for eminent domain proceedings have a developer and plan in mind to which the properties will be conveyed. I would hate the think the Mayor and Council want to initiate a blight declaration and eminent domain proceedings on the Washington Blvd. properties [as they are rumored to be considering] purely on spec.

Dan S. said...

Curm:

I can't say how it happens elsewhere, or even how it was done in Ogden before the current administration.

Perhaps the first thing to keep in mind is that "RDA" does not always imply city ownership of the property, through eminent domain or otherwise. The main idea in an RDA is to use tax increment financing, and that can be done just as easily on privately owned properties.

Under Godfrey, however, the preference seems to be for the city to play a bigger role, by owning the property outright, at least temporarily. So the city bought the former Ogden City Mall, tore it down, sold off some of the property to the LDS Church and the Treehouse Museum and Dave Earnshaw, then leased most of the rest to Boyer. And in the River Project, the city acquired most or all of the "phase 1" properties with the intent to sell to Ernest Health and others, then roll the proceeds into acquisition of more properties, etc. Obviously this hasn't all worked out exactly as planned. But obviously it gives the mayor a lot of power when he's the biggest commercial property owner in town. And when city-owned property does generate revenue (think BDO), it gives him a revenue source that he can use as collateral to finance other projects.

Danny said...

Given that Godfrey's projects usually fail and have to be bailed out, it's just another form of taxation.

His cronies get paid up front. Then years later "economic conditions" require the city council to vote for some "support" for the project.

If you follow the money, it goes from the taxpayers, to Godfrey's cronies, then a little comes back to Godfrey in campaign contributions while parasitic bureaucrats pull down six figure salaries for "managing" it all.

It's a rotten, stinking, corrupt mess.

OneWhoKnows said...

Yes it is!

ozboy said...

Dan

You wrote:

"And when city-owned property does generate revenue (think BDO), it gives him a revenue source that he can use as collateral to finance other projects."

Can you give us an example of any city owned projects started by the Godfreyites that has actually made money? (Not counting the great cash cow - BDO - which Godfrey inherited and never had anything to do with other than to bleed it to finance a whole slate of stupid and money losing schemes).

I am looking forward to what you find out on the 7000 phantom jobs the Godfreyites are claiming. I suspect that a couple thousand of them will be the IRS jobs - none of which Godfrey had anything to do with. The vast majority of those jobs were not new hires but rather transfers from different IRS facilities around the area into the renovated buildings on Wall.

I also believe you will find a whole lot of jobs listed that were in the construction of the Junktion - jobs that of course were temporary and no longer exist. Another trick with these liar's counts centers around construction employees who are hired and laid off multiple times in the course of a construction project. One individual employee can be hired and furloughed several times on a large project as his specialty is needed in the process. Each time he comes on it is counted as a new job created.

Just the job as Economic Developer Director will be counted as three jobs created. First there was Harmer, then Waterfall and now the new guy - three high paying jobs the little wizard on nine can and will claim as ones his wizardry has created.

Firema Joe said...

Oz-72 jobs have been created in the fire department in the last 10 years.

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