By BRETT WILKISON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors took further action Tuesday to protect redevelopment funding, approving projects worth more than $3.1 million in the county’s three designated zones.
The action, which board members acknowledged they fast-tracked, was intended to beat an Oct. 1 state deadline expected to make subsequent contracts more expensive. After that date, as part of budget legislation approved earlier this year, the county would have to tack on a sum equal to 40 percent of any contract, to be paid to school and transit districts in the same redevelopment area, officials said.
“That’s why we wanted to act today,” John Haig, redevelopment manager with the county’s Community Development Commission, said in an interview after a board’s 5-0 vote.
The county’s action was another pushback against the state’s bid to use more than $1.7 billion in redevelopment money this year for its budget deficit. The county’s share of that amount, which supervisors also approved paying Tuesday as part of an “opt-in” provision aimed to save county redevelopment, equates to a first-year amount of $3 million and $710,000 thereafter.
The funding shift is tied up in a legal challenge that has frozen redevelopment activity. Spending on projects authorized Tuesday would be contingent on that court order being lifted, Haig said.
The county already has approved nearly two dozen redevelopment projects worth more than $25.7 million this year. Local cities have made similar rushed votes to protect their redevelopment funds.
The largest two county projects have included ongoing road, sidewalk and lighting improvements on Highway 12 in The Springs area of Sonoma Valley and redevelopment of the former Albertson’s shopping center in Roseland.
Earlier votes this year authorized more than $21.3 million in spending in those two project areas, including more than $562,000 in loans for low-income housing and rehabilitation of commercial properties.
In Tuesday’s vote, supervisors approved more than $1.9 million in projects for the county’s third redevelopment area, which stretches along the Russian River between Rio Nido and Monte Rio.
The projects included:
– $1.2 million to cover staff and consultant expenses for studies on wastewater treatment solutions for the Monte Rio area.
– $250,000 for roadside signs between Highway 1 and Highway 101 along the Russian River corridor, including gateway signs for towns and destination signs to direct visitors.
– $163,000 to support a sheriff’s deputy position in Guerneville for a year and $60,000 to install 10 surveillance cameras in the area.
– $125,000 to support “business attraction” and economic development work for the river area.
– $60,000 to cover road condition and drainage studies in Rio Nido and Monte Rio, and $25,000 to install traffic control measures outside Rio Nido and Guerneville.
Some Russian River area residents have been sharply critical of the spending in recent months, saying it does not reflect community priorities and is a waste of taxpayer money.
But all of the approved projects were endorsed by the area’s citizen-composed redevelopment oversight committee, Haig said. Along with other projects previously approved by supervisors, they account for a majority of the approximately $8 million in tax funding now set aside for the area, he said.
“We didn’t create any projects out of thin air,” Haig told supervisors in his presentation.
Other projects approved Tuesday included:
– An additional $875,000 in financing for the Sonoma Gardens Apartments, a low-income housing project near Hearn and Santa Rosa avenues. Haig said the project qualified for a loan because of its “related benefit” to the Roseland area.
– $25,000 to study the feasibility of establishing a redevelopment area in the Fulton, Larkfield and Geyserville communities of northern Sonoma County.