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Sonoma County’s lawsuit over Springs, Roseland redevelopment projects to be heard in court

By BRETT WILKISON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County’s lawsuit seeking to retain about $14 million in tax revenue to complete two high-profile redevelopment projects is set for its day in court Friday.

The county is staking claim to both future tax receipts and accrued cash for the long-planned Highway 12 street and sidewalk upgrades north of Sonoma and the proposed residential and commercial complex on an abandoned shopping center in Santa Rosa’s Roseland neighborhood.

The old Albertson's Supermarket in Roseland. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat)

The old Albertson’s Supermarket in Roseland. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat)

The county sued the state of California in January after finance officials in Sacramento determined funding for the two projects was subject to redistribution to other taxing agencies under Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2012 statewide dissolution of redevelopment agencies.

County officials claim the contracts set up by the county’s former redevelopment agency to carry out the projects are valid and should shield the funds from redistribution.

John Haig, capital programs manager for the county Community Development Commission and its former redevelopment manager, called the case “extremely critical” for the future of the two projects.

Loss of the funds could jeopardize some Highway 12 improvements, including parking, street art and pocket-park plans, and stall the Roseland project at its initial cleanup phase, county officials said.

“It’s definitely worth fighting for,” said Supervisor Susan Gorin, whose district includes Sonoma Valley, where the Highway 12 upgrades have been in the works for more than two decades.

“We were so close to the completion of the final phase and then this happened,” Gorin said of the dissolution of redevelopment agencies.

Brown’s move was meant to free up tax dollars for other public needs and end cases of redevelopment waste and abuse, chief among them a $17 million upgrade of a Palm Desert golf course.

In roughly 120 lawsuits, cities and counties across the state have sought to hold onto tax dollars meant for breathing life into stagnant downtowns and blighted areas. Sonoma County’s case mirrors many of those fights and could be decided by a higher court, regardless of what happens in Judge Eugene Balonon’s Sacramento County courtroom today.

The county claims it has properly followed state law guiding the wind-down of former redevelopment agencies. After the February 2012 dissolution, a local oversight board of county, city and school officials voted to continue with the Highway 12 and Roseland projects, making contracts between the county and its former redevelopment agency valid, county officials say.

Officials with the state Department of Finance, however, have continued to say that the intra-county contracts were not an “enforceable obligation” with a third party and therefore aren’t valid.

The stance could result in the redistribution of $7.3 million attached to the Highway 12 project and $6.5 million for the proposed Roseland village. The combined sum includes about $7 million in future tax receipts and $6.8 million in cash on hand.

The money would come back partly to the county’s general fund, and to special districts and schools.

The county Board of Supervisors already has tapped some of the redistributed funds it did not dispute to proceed in the interim with the Highway 12 work, set to get underway next spring, and to start environmental cleanup of the former Roseland shopping center.

The combined discretionary spending, including several other former redevelopment ventures, totals $11.5 million this fiscal year.

The General Fund would be in line for reimbursement for more than half of that total if the county lawsuit is successful. If not, the future of the two projects — especially Roseland — could remain in limbo, forced to compete for funding with the many other services and programs supported by the general fund.

The 11 a.m. hearing is in Department 14 at the Gordon D. Schaber Sacramento County Courthouse. Balonon’s final ruling is likely to come days or weeks later.

(You can reach Staff Writer Brett Wilkison at 521-5295 or brett.wilkison@pressdemocrat.com.)





3 Responses to “Sonoma County’s lawsuit over Springs, Roseland redevelopment projects to be heard in court”

  1. James Bennett says:

    But Henry B:
    David Rabbitt voted FOR Plan Bay Area.

    David was present while credible citizens from all walks of life expressed their objections. Most all that weren’t paid to say otherwise (yes paid) or part of an advocacy group were against The Plan. They made great arguments, talked about the Constitution.
    About what this Plan would represent to our freedoms, etc., etc..

    Why didn’t any of our public officials generate a story for the PD warning their constituents of this life changing plan?

    Why indeed.

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  2. Henry Bernard says:

    In regards to the Roseland project, congratulations on devoting more of our scarce resources towards legal battles.

    The history of mixed use development spearheaded by government entities is one of small return, if not indebtedness. Yet still, those ignorant in the arts of commercial development pile into the clown car that is their addiction for irresponsible attempts at social engineering.

    Mr. Rabbitt gets an exemption from my critique as his professional standing demands respect in this regard. The remainder of the Board have no place in addressing such concerns as its combined CV wouldn’t qualify it as a developer’s girl-friday.

    Bring in the private sector. Offer inviting loan guarantees and a sufficient tax holiday as bait to secure private capital. Let the market determine the development’s layout and focus. Act only to insure responsible and proper planning and utilization of resources. But most of all, step back and let the experts do what they do best. The board has proven over the previous decade that it has scarce ability to succeed in these areas of endeavor. With their dearth of experience in these matters the arrogance in further attempt qualifies the majority of our board members, not as victims of their own hubris, but as fools.

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  3. James Bennett says:

    Wonder how much employment, how much commerce, how much organic free market revenue could have been generated at that site this whole time?

    Wonder how many American Dreams, how many great ideas, how much could be realized if that was segmented into 10-15 affordable retail units?

    If our adherent public officials have their way it would be all Smart Growth and a highly controlled retaill landscape filled largely with national big box retailers.

    If our adherent public officials have their way “future tax receipts” would be siphoned off in Tax Increment Financing (TIF). With TIF in place, it’s impossible to grow the free market local economy. Because all the additional tax revenue above and beyond the date the redevelopment ordinance is passed gets funneled to an unaccountable agency that was selected/installed based on their being ‘on the program’. So that money can go to more corruption, more Smart Growth and whatever fascist favors they see fit. Meanwhile, all the traditional government responsibilities do without, or need additional taxation, or hold bake sales. This usually goes on for 25 years, no one’s ever heard of a redevelopment district actually ending.

    Now with Plan Bay Area in place, the whole Bay Area will be reduced to a redevelopment ‘region’ on steroids.

    This time, (in conjunction with Senate Bill 1 which has been waiting in the wings to coincide with regional plans like PBA) instead of a molested definition of “blight” that you could drive a truck through, it’ll be properties showing; “inefficient land use patters”. Well, these traitors can regard 96% OF ALL THE BAY AREA REAL ESTATE inefficient land use patterns because it’s not in the Priority Development Area (PDA)! Not in The Transportation Corridor. This tyrannical definition makes 96% of the private property around here subject to EMINENT DOMAIN.

    I hope folks understand what’s at stake here.

    This is why I’m so vocal about Plan Bay Area on here.

    This is why a credible law suit has been filed against this Plan. It is America’s first grass root legal opposition to UN Agenda 21.

    Make no mistake, all this uncalled for planning revolution that you see (Smart Growth, Train) is the physical manifistation of Agenda 21. http://www.democratsagainstunagenda21.com/

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