Housing URD in the works
The Madras City Council will hear public comments on a proposed housing urban renewal district at its meeting Nov. 12, before taking a final vote on whether or not to create the district.
The meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. in the Madras City Hall in the council chambers.
The council's goal is to see 965 new housing units built in the district area over the 30 years of the plan, as well as to improve infrastructure in the district.
The 700-acre district would create a new taxing area within the city, but it would not create new taxes. Instead, the current tax rate would be frozen for all of the current taxing districts — including Jefferson County Fire District No. 1, the Madras Aquatic Center Recreation District and the Jefferson County Library District, as well as Jefferson County and the city of Madras.
Most of the tax revenue generated when new housing is built would be used to encourage development in the housing urban renewal district. That could include giving a developer money once a new development is occupied, giving tax rebates over seven years, or having the city build required infrastructure.
The plan would allow the city to borrow up to $39.1 million, which would be paid back with new tax revenue as houses and apartments are built.
At the city council's meeting Tuesday, Oct. 22, several builders praised the plan, saying they would like to build in Madras but found the costs prohibitive.
Tyler Neese, the government affairs director for Central Oregon Association of Realtors, called the plan "innovative and aggressive."Madras resident Lindsay Foster-Drago questioned the timing of the plan.
"Isn't this a little too late to the table?" she said. "Are these growth numbers even possible?"
Nick Snead, the city's community development director, said the city won't overextend itself.
"We only give incentives when the home is complete," he said, adding that city staff and the Madras Redevelopment Commission, which would oversee the incentive program, would not put the city at risk.
"We'll stagnate without adjusting our incentives," city Administrator Gus Burril added.
"I'll also be asking for worst case and best case, so we're going into this with our eyes wide open," said Bartt Brick, city councilor and chairman of the redevelopment commission.
The Jefferson County 509-J School District and the High Desert Education Service District would not be affected because the State School Fund would make up the difference.
It would affect the fire district, however. So the plan includes funds for expanding the fire station at the corner of Fifth and J streets 10 years down the road.
The fire district board sent a letter of support for the plan, along with encouraging the use of fire sprinklers for new housing in the district.
The Jefferson County Board of Commissioners also passed a resolution supporting the plan at its meeting Oct. 23. On Nov. 6, the board will vote on whether to allow some property that is not in the Madras city limits to be included in the district.
Rick Allen, the president of Willow Canyon Group, said the district represented a "good private-public partnership."
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