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House, Senate vote to rein in RDAs

Published: Thursday, March 3 2005 5:32 p.m. MST

A diluted version of a bill to rein in redevelopment agencies passed Wednesday night after both the House and Senate haggled over time restraints.

SB184, sponsored by Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo, will put a moratorium on all RDAs funding retail growth for one year and will also prohibit RDA dollars going toward recreation centers — including soccer stadiums.

Until the final Senate vote, 21-8, the sticking point for many legislators was a Feb. 15 cutoff date for the retail RDA suspension. Several cities, including Taylorsville and Holladay, authorized blight studies for RDA areas recently in hopes of getting in under the wire before the year hold.

Although the Senate voted to bump the date back to Feb. 24, a House amendment pushed the original date back in to the final bill.

"All of a sudden we have a number of cities who wanted to get their study under way. I think that is incorrect," said Rep. John Dougall, R-American Fork. Dougall said he knew of 10 cities who had started RDA studies since the bill surfaced.

The final legislation is less ambitious than Bramble's original bill, which would have curbed all retail RDAs. The one-year suspension was a compromise, he said, between anti-RDA education leaders and city officials who favor tax increment financing.

Randy Sant, RDA director for Sandy city, was among those pushing for an alternative to a blanket ban on retail RDAs, saying RDA funds are a viable economic tool for cities looking to revitalize.

"I'm really glad we were able to reach a compromise," Sant said. "RDA is a complex issue. When you're talking about blight and retail, those things need additional study."

The one-year hold will allow for further study to siphon out legitimate retail RDAs from government abuses, Bramble said.

"I'm optimistic about the year study," he said. "We want to redefine blight and what constitutes good retail versus the zero sum gain retail where cities are trying to raid each other's pockets."

From the outset, Bramble said he expected the bill to end in a compromise because he was stepping on "some sacred turf" by banning all retail RDAs. But Bramble said he was unequivocal on prohibiting RDA tax increments going toward recreational arenas like the Major League Soccer stadium that Real Salt Lake is looking to put on RDA spots in either Murray or Salt Lake City.

That provision may leave both cities in the lurch because the RDA money for infrastructure and land was a major selling point for Real Salt Lake officials.

Bramble's bill will also eliminate the use of eminent domain in RDA areas, unless the land is already owned by an agency member.

"It's an argument of whether we should give homes to Wal-Mart," Bramble said. "The idea that government can seize property to give to private developers is bad public policy."

Bramble's bill has had strong support from the Utah Taxpayer's Association and school district leaders, who were also backing a bill by Dougall to allow school districts to opt out of an RDA area.

By choosing not to be included, school districts could retain their 55 percent share of property taxes that otherwise would go toward redevelopment.

Dougall's measure, HB307, had not come up for a final vote by press time Wednesday night.


E-mail: estewart@desnews.com

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