City won't go along with idea to force payments to county
by: , COGEN

Multnomah County Commissioner Jeff Cogen is backing off his proposal to force city payments to the county if county commissioners oppose expansion of an urban renewal area.

Under prodding from Cogen, the city's Urban Renewal Advisory Group recently recommended setting aside $35 million in urban renewal money for the county, as part of the Portland Development Commission's expansion and extension of the River District urban renewal area.

The county will forfeit more than $5 million in property taxes every year the River District is kept off the tax rolls, so PDC leaders have agreed with the advisory group recommendation to meet some of the county's real estate needs as partial compensation. The River District includes the thriving Pearl District.

Cogen also was pushing an intergovernmental agreement between the city and county that would give the county a permanent voice in urban renewal district expansions. His proposal, supported by city Commissioners Erik Sten and Dan Saltzman, would force the city to pay half the county's lost property taxes if county commissioners couldn't be persuaded to support expansion of an urban renewal area or creation of a new one.

But Cogen conceded this week that he's not going to get the needed third vote on the City Council for his idea, after getting word that Mayor Tom Potter won't back the plan.

'He would be willing to support something, but it's not what I was hoping for,' Cogen said.

Cogen said he still intends to frame an intergovernmental agreement and submit it to the two governing bodies. But it won't give the county what some viewed as the effective veto power in his original proposal, because the city could have been forced to supply the county money from the city general fund, not from urban renewal money.

'It's not going to be everything I was looking for,' Cogen said. 'It had more teeth before.'

In a related move, the City Council authorized another step Wednesday morning in the reorganization of three downtown urban renewal areas, which will add millions of public dollars to development projects.

The council authorized the city's debt manager to issue bonds for the Downtown Waterfront urban renewal area. That will extend the life of the urban renewal district until 2024. That will generate around $25 million more for such projects as the relocation of Saturday Market into Gov. Tom McCall Waterfront Park, Mercy Corps' move into the Skidmore Fountain Building and the University of Oregon's renovation of several buildings near the northwest end of the Burnside Bridge.

The city also is considering the future of the South Park Blocks and River District urban renewal areas.

The Urban Renewal Advisory Group, which includes members of the City Council and Portland Development Commission, as well as Cogen, earlier recommended extending the boundaries of the River District into the other two areas. The PDC board will consider the recommendations on May 14.

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