Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Incentive Plan Receives 'Concensus' Among City Commissioners

By Steve Vied, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Wednesday, July 29, 2009 12:03 AM CDT

The way Owensboro induces developers to invest in projects in the city may soon take a new approach, with a greater focus on the redevelopment and reuse of areas that could use a boost.

On Tuesday at an Owensboro City Commission work session at City Hall, Nick Brake, president and CEO of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp., recommended creating a city incentives program that will have guidelines designed to promote smart, sustainable growth.

Four members of the City Commission who were present responded positively to the idea.

The city's current annexation policy that provides financial incentives for business and residential developments would remain, but additional incentives would be provided to promote infill development of areas that have fallen into decline, such as the area around Gabe's Tower on Triplett Street.

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The "Local Government Shared Investment Policy" outlined by Brake includes a mechanism to score projects to determine the amount of tax reimbursement each would receive and for how long, based on the economic benefit and quality-of-life value to the community and the ability of the project to remain a valuable asset for many years.

Incentives would be provided for projects rather than individual retail stores. One option favors redevelopment projects in the urban core and urban central areas of the city. Another option focuses on development and redevelopment of large land areas.

Projects planned for urban infill areas, downtown and along Frederica Street as well as mixed-use projects would receive bonus points in the scoring system.

"We feel like this is the right time to do this," Brake said. "We need to look at sustainable development and infill development. ... Currently we have nothing on the books to help us do infill projects."

The new incentives would be an addition to the city's existing incentive policy, which has expanded the city's borders and raised the city's population, Mayor Ron Payne emphasized.

"I do really support the issue of targeting certain areas of town in need," Payne said.

Commissioner Charlie Castlen said he was pleased with the presentation.

"My problem with the current annexation policy is that it neglects areas inside the city," Castlen said.

Commissioner Candace Brake said it should be important for the city to promote development within the existing city limits. Commissioner John Kazlauskas said he was enthused about new, innovative ideas.

Commissioner David Johnson was not present for the meeting.

Payne said the next step would be to create an ordinance containing Brake's proposal. "I think you are hearing a consensus up here on interest in this," Payne told Brake.

-- Also on Tuesday, the commission listened to the concern of local couple Clarence and Donna May regarding a neighbor who parks an enclosed vehicle trailer and a large recreational vehicle on residential property. Payne asked the city staff to study how prevalent such problems are in the city and bring back a recommendation on what steps the city should take.

A city ordinance prohibits long-term parking of such vehicles on residential streets, but the ordinance does not prohibit parking them in driveways and yards.

Steve Vied, 691-7297, svied@messenger-inquirer.com