The Land Use Committee and Community Renewal Area

Our first illustration of the squishy division of authority among the Olympia City Council’s Committees is front and center this week. The Land Use Committee is considering whether to move forward on a Community Renewal Area (also known as Urban Renewal). You can find the staff report here. One of the stated purposes of the CRA is revitalizing downtown, increasing commerce, and making it a safe and welcoming place (I assume this only includes those who we actually want to welcome). These goals transcend the Land Use Committee’s grant of authority and get squarely into General Government’s purview. (I assume we’re operating on the implicit understanding that GGC won’t do anything that would inhibit LUC’s work on the CRA.)

In any case, a Community Renewal Area allows the city in question to designate an area in which it has additional powers to mitigate blighted properties. This goes beyond its powers of eminent domain through condemnation. The staff report links to a white paper on the subject that you can read here. Notice that the definition of a blighted area is one which “arrests the sound growth of the city.” (I’ll save my snarky remarks for later.) We’ll also talk more about the details once we know that this is set to go forward.

The City Council took some briefings during which they decided as you might have guessed by now, that in order to move forward the staff will need to hire a consultant to harness the CRA’s tools. The cost for this project would come from uncommitted general funds, of which I can only assume there is plenty. Thus, the City Council designated a selection committee which included a banker and after a RFP process settled on the following candidates:

A. EcoNorthwest – Abe Farkas

B. National Development Council, Michelle Morlan (you can click on her name on the lower left for what appears to be a video.)

C. Urbanists , Kurt Creager

At 5:30 April 19, 2012, the Land Use Committee (which does not handle economic development) will determine whether to move forward by designating selection criteria for adoption of the plan, the consultant to implement it, and the CRA itself. Stay tuned: someone with extraordinary powers to take on blight may be arriving downtown soon. Hopefully (s)he won’t stand in one place too long at the pain of suffering a citation for Pedestrian Interference.

So should the LUC move forward on this or not?

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