During an animated Blanding City Council and Community Reinvestment Agency (CRA) meeting on April 9, council members discussed revising current CRA policies regarding the use of funds.
Mayor Joe Lyman stressed the city does not want to reimburse developers for the cost of constructing their own capital assets. Projects where developers create infrastructure to meet city standards (such as streets, curb and gutter, and other civil work) would qualify.
Removing the possibility for developers to be reimbursed for private infrastructure and other improvements with the increased incremental tax revenue is the top concern.
Councilwoman Cheryl Bowers strongly argued for keeping language that included that possibility, reasoning, “We can’t take away the entire purpose of the CRA.
“Don’t forget the purpose is to provide economic development within the city, provide jobs, provide taxes, all of those things are part of why you do a CRA, not just to get infrastructure for your city.”
Bowers expressed concern that the change would take away incentive for private businesses to beautify the city, particularly along the north entrance where such a project is proposed.
She continued, “The decision is up to us in the end. You don’t want to completely restrict anything we may decide to do in the future. We get to make those decisions as the Community Reinvestment Agency.”
“That is what is scary to me,” Councilman Logan Shumway argued, “The government is going make decisions that they shouldn’t be making, stepping into a realm that they shouldn’t be stepping into, helping people pay for their businesses. It’s not what they should do.”
Shumway expressed concern that the designation of a CRA project would mean the city is “picking winners and losers.”
City Manager Jeremy Redd said, “The idea being that the CRA is the one lever the City of Blanding has to encourage economic development. It’s not to pick winners and losers; it’s to encourage economic development. This is the lever that we can pull.”
Mayor Lyman said, “Had the language been this tight, the school district might have had a different answer.
“I absolutely know that some members of the school board did not like that you could be reimbursed for what was your capital asset as the private property developer.”
State Representative Phil Lyman was in attendance and added public comment.
Council members had been alluding to the project proposed by Rep. Lyman and his partners that would bring in a hotel and improvements to the north city entrance to Blanding. The school board voted against supporting this CRA project in January.
Rep. Lyman said, “Because of the CRA, the city can leverage private investment and get beautification all up and down that street....
“I don’t want to squander the opportunity for the city to step in and leverage that private investment to get some more stuff.
“As far as picking winners and losers, it’s going to compete with other hotels in town – other hotels in Cortez, Moab, Farmington – whereas right now, we don’t compete regionally. We’ll bring a lot of people to Blanding that aren’t currently coming.
“I’m willing to stick my neck out as far as it will go. Whatever I can leverage, that’s how big the project will go.
“To me, it’s a true public/private partnership. Businesses don’t like to partner with government any more than government likes to partner with business, but that’s what a CRA is. It’s a public/private partnership.
Mayor Lyman added, “I’m not interested in becoming a developer, but I am interested in using this tool to the extent that we’ve defined it in that paragraph, to assist somebody who wants to be the developer.”
Logan Shumway made a motion to adopt the paragraph with the revisions to CRA policies removing private ownership of infrastructure, which was met with a motion by Cheryl Bowers to table it instead. The motion to table was seconded by Shumway and council members affirmed the vote.
The council then voted unanimously on five resolutions approving Interlocal Cooperation Agreements with other taxing entities in San Juan County, which, simplified, is an agreement to work with those other entities.
In other business, the council discussed small cellular tower design standards with City Engineer Terry Ekker. Ekker reported that the city will be required by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to install small cell infrastructure around town to bring 5G service to the city in coming years.
The small cell infrastructure would be between 20 and 50 small cell towers, typically on top of street light poles.
The concern is managing attachments to the current city infrastructure, which includes older light poles. The city is working with UAMPS and expects to adopt a standard design.
Not adopting a design standard means the companies installing the small cell infrastructure could install whatever they want.
Chief JJ Bradford gave the monthly police report to the council. Officer Trey McDonald has finished up POST requirements and is now a certified law enforcement officer for Blanding City Police Department.
Chief Bradford awarded Officer Clayton Most with the city Achievement Award for 2018, which is given for excelling in the department.
Bradford described Most as a “very hard-working officer who is proactive. He has his hands full in the department and can be found in his office on days off finishing up reports, making sure they’re ready to go to court.
“Clayton cares about the community of Blanding and works hard to do his part to make our community a better and safer place to live.”
The March Water Report shows an additional 800 acre feet of water in Recapture Reservoir. Council members remarked how good it is to see a report like this.
David Palmer reported on recreation activities, including a successful volleyball season. An additional 25 participants signed up compared to the previous year. The department is gearing up to get the pool ready and turn on the city sprinklers.
The council discussed a city beautification contest, summer employee party, and updated information on the Bears Ears petition, of which signatures are being gathered online and around the city. Online signatures total more than 500, and the number of handwritten signatures is growing.
The council heard from Mayor Lyman about a separate petition to authorize formation of a committee to possibly recommend a different form of government for San Juan County.
It is an official legal petition and signatures have to be legally witnessed. The number of signatures needed to get it on the ballot is 328.
In the county commission report, Cheryl Bowers recommended that people continue to read the resolutions considered by the Commission. As the resolutions have gotten longer, the council is worried no one will pay attention.