Property owners along Front Avenue should ante up for improvements that will increase their property values, but city officials need to put a reasonable lid on their request.
The city might create a LID - Local Improvement District - that would pull in $1.2 million of the estimated $2.9 million needed for improvements along the street as part of the McEuen Park reconstruction project. That boils down to some $400 per foot of frontage space - an astronomical and unreasonable sum.
Some of the negotiating that's beginning to take place centers on whether or not the city promised no additional taxes as part of the McEuen funding plan. That's a legitimate question which we'll answer in a moment, but it's not the right target.
The city did in fact virtually assure an additional tax with respect to Front Avenue when they started the LID process with Sherman Avenue and Lakeside. They had often commented that Front Avenue was next, but the decision on what to do with McEuen Park lingered for years.
In 2005, the city's budget indicated the likely need for a Front Avenue LID, but the estimated cost to property owners was $80 a foot - exactly 20 percent of the $400 being discussed now. The improvement is likely worth more than $80 a foot to the property owners, but nowhere close to $400. So where should the difference be made up?
That's where the right target comes into play: Lake City Development Corp.
Before the urban renewal agency is painted as Public Enemy No. 1, allow us to explain why it's the proper source of additional funding. As has been documented repeatedly, LCDC was created back in 1997 for the expressed purpose of improving McEuen Field. While LCDC has flourished since that time, McEuen languished in underutilization before becoming one of the most controversial topics here in many years. The problem isn't that after 15 years McEuen Park is finally getting an overhaul; the problem is that the agency responsible for funding it has thus far come up short.
We understand that city officials will need heavy-duty weather slickers to fend off the hailstorm of criticism that will likely come their way if they go back to LCDC to more fully fund McEuen improvements rather than have private property owners pick up an unfair share of the burden. But right is right, and LCDC has the ability to pick up more of the improvement bill for the park and its access. More than ability, LCDC has a 15-year-old responsibility to do so.