Saturday, December 10, 2005

Pulling at the Thread

Here's an open invitation to friends and enemies alike. Use the comments section to tell us where New Albany has progressed in 2005, and to whom you would give the credit. And likewise, if you believe New Albany has regressed in the past 12 months, tell us which areas you see that occurring in.

Tell us which policies and decisions you agree with, and those you disagree with.

And as we enter the second half of the term for this council and mayor, tell us those areas, initiatives, and policies you think are most in need of being addressed.

For those of you who fear to identify yourself, you know how I feel about that. But that hasn't kept me from allowing anonymous comments here at VH. To the extent we don't share the same goals, to the extent we disagree, that's what makes for a ball game.

Be prepared, however, to answer any challenges. At VH, we don't confuse facts with opinions. If you assert a fact that is unsupported, I'm certain another commenter will ask for a reasoned response.

Collectively, we can compile the boners, groaners, and mistakes of 2005. Who's up, who's down. And at the same time, we can chronicle the winners and losers, the defeats and the triumphs.

There won't be any comments deleted. Instead, comments will be responded to. Anonymity, if desired, is allowed. But failure to defend will be met, I'd bet, by an overwhelming rebuttal on the facts.

Are you game? Then bring it on...

Monday, December 05, 2005

Pause Before Boosting Fees

A city has only limited opportunities to exert its will to deter or promote private behavior. When a city has at hand the ability to create incentives to encourage behavior, at little cost to the treasury of the city, it is imperative that the city take full advantage of that opportunity.

Although private interests may have other priorities, the elected officials of this city have consistently expressed a belief that development within and redevelopment of New Albany’s urban core is the most effective utilization of public resources.

As this council considers an increase in fees for residential sewer connections, it is presented with a golden opportunity to further express its commitment to encouraging what John Rosenbarger calls “infill” development.

New Albany, for almost 200 years, has invested in its urban core. Maximizing the return on this investment is a worthy public policy goal. In fact, no professional planner or public policy professional would argue with the fact that any city should create incentives for development within the urban core, particularly when compared to the alternative or encouraging what has come to be known as “urban sprawl.”

The cost of providing services within the urban core is far less than the cost of providing services to the far-flung reaches of the city.

Over the next six years, this council will be presented with numerous opportunities to demonstrate its commitment to the renaissance of the 1st, 3rd, and portions of the 2nd, 4th, and 5th districts.

Tonight, as the council considers the imposition of an increased sewer connection fee, I urge them to create within the ordinance the mechanism for expressing a public policy preference for “infill” development.

This council can effect that preference by authorizing a slightly higher sewer connection fee, while directing the Sewer Board to declare a moratorium for one year, or a waiver, for all residential sewer connection fees for properties within the areas currently designated as “blighted.”

Over the past four years, a period during which the city has been somewhat restricted in granting sewer connections, residential developments in this zone have represented fewer than 8% of all sewer connections and less than 4% of all sewer tap-in fee revenues.

As new sewer credits begin to flow in 2006, such a moratorium will have a negligible effect on Sewer Board revenues, particularly if the new fee is raised slightly to accommodate this incentive program.

By imposing a moratorium in blighted areas for a one-year period, this council can encourage accelerated development and redevelopment in its blighted areas. By limiting the moratorium to one year, this council can reconsider this again in 12 months and evaluate its effectiveness.

As currently written, the ordinance is a disincentive to “infill” development. It imposes a much higher barrier to new development for properties within the blighted areas, most of which are in the 1st and 3rd districts.

I don’t believe this council wants to discourage “infill” development and redevelopment. I believe this council wants to encourage it.

By increasing the “new” sewer connection fee by a nominal percentage, the financial integrity of the Sewer Board’s revenue stream is maintained, while continuing to encourage “infill” development and redevelopment.
Others have other serious concerns with this ordinance as written. As the council considers it on second and third reading, I hope to see several amendments, including one that would create an incentive to develop the urban core first.