By CLARK MASON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Cloverdale officials, intent on building a new police station, have decided to continue with the city’s redevelopment agency even though it will involve a hefty payment to the state.
Cloverdale City Council members at their meeting this week agreed to “pay to play,” and give the state up to $674,000 in redevelopment funds, primarily property tax revenue, this budget year and $164,000 the next.
“We need to keep the agency alive,” said Mayor Gus Wolter, who added that building a police station with redevelopment funds is a high priority.
To help balance the state budget, the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown last month eliminated California’s approximate 400 redevelopment agencies.
However they also passed legislation allowing local redevelopment agencies to continue functioning if they divert some of their funds to the state, a maneuver that some have dubbed “pay to play.”
Cities and counties have protested strongly, comparing it to having to pay ransom. The League of California Cities and the California Redevelopment Association filed a lawsuit July 18 with the state Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the law. They also asked the court to block the state’s plan for the time being.
The Santa Rosa City Council on Tuesday agreed to pay up to $2.7 million to keep its redevelopment agency alive and preserve an estimated $40 million worth of local projects.
The Healdsburg City Council on Monday is expected to take up the issue, followed by the Sebastopol City Council on Tuesday and the Windsor Town Council on Wednesday.
Creation of redevelopment agencies was authorized decades ago by the state to help eliminate “blight” in communities and were funded by diverting property tax revenue that otherwise would go to schools, special districts and other local government entities.
Proponents of redevelopment programs say they have helped revitalize downtowns and build affordable housing. But critics say they have too long a life, often cover too much territory and can unfairly benefit developers and commercial interests.
Cities and counties have until October to enact an ordinance stating they will make a payment to the state, or they cannot embark on new projects.
The payments to the state, totalling $1.7 billion this fiscal year, are not due until Jan. 1.
In Cloverdale, city officials for the past decade have been talking about building a new police station to replace the downtown headquarters, which is cramped and seismically unsafe.
Approximately $4 million is set aside in the city’s redevelopment agency to build the new headquarters, along with an additional $2.6 million in existing and anticipated development impact fees.
“We pretty much have decided on the location,” said Mayor Wolter, adding that the property is in the vicinity of the Citrus Fair.
It still is uncertain how big the station will be.
“We’ll have to build what we can afford,” said Wolter. “It may not be the size of the police station we will eventually need. If we do it right the first go-round, we can leave room for expansion down the road.”
Councilwoman Carol Russell said the police station has been delayed by the uncertainty over redevelopment programs. “We’d be making an announcement if we hadn’t been interrupted by the state,” she said.
The police headquarters would complete the so-called “Four Corners” redevelopment project downtown. The first three were construction of a fire station, followed by a history center and a performing arts center.
Russell chafed at the state’s diversion of redevelopment funds.
“This is public debt we paid for. The people of this city had to lay out cash,” she said noting that there was a high interest rate to borrow the money, and consultants and bond experts had to be paid.