By BRIAN WALKER
POST FALLS — The Post Falls Urban Renewal Commission continues to set the pace in Idaho on closing out urban renewal districts.
The commission on Thursday closed out the City Center District nearly a year before the maturity date of the 231-acre district created in 1994.
It's the commission's third district closure, which is more than any other urban renewal board in the state.
"By closing districts early it benefits both the taxing entities and the taxpayers who have been supportive of the efforts," said Diane Fountain, the commission's executive director.
Districts created by the city and administered by the commission have a base tax rate when the district is created. That base tax rate continues to be collected by the county and remitted to taxing entities over the life of the district. As a district is improved, has new construction and increases in value due to improvements, the incremental tax created by those improvements in excess of the base tax is allocated to the commission to pay for the public improvements that have been made within the district.
With the City Center closure, there is excess increment totaling $448,435.64 that will be rebated to the taxing districts as follows:
• City of Post Falls, $187,291.81;
• Kootenai County, $104,359.57;
• Kootenai County Fire and Rescue, $66,434.78;
• Post Falls School District, $20,540.65;
• North Idaho College, $34,487.20;
• Post Falls Highway District, $17,160.91;
• Community Library Network, $12,440.65; and
• Emergency Medical Services, $5,720.07.
The district was created to improve Spokane Street, Fourth Avenue, the Centennial Trail, the Post Falls Landing project and other areas to stimulate commercial and retail development.
Over the life of the district, medical office buildings, other businesses, the Post Falls Chamber of Commerce and transportation improvements have been built.
The tax base of all the properties within the district was about $14.2 million when the district was created. The current tax base, with all the improvements, is $40.4 million, an increase of more than 285 percent.
Jerry Baltzell, commission chairman, said there are successes — and failures — of districts.
Although most of the public improvement projects in the original district plan have been accomplished and stimulated additional development, improvements made within Post Falls Landing along the Spokane River have, to date, failed to stimulate the commercial and retail development that was anticipated, he said.
That situation is the result of a combination of factors, including the Great Recession, ownership legal disputes and high prices for the vacant land, Baltzell said.
"The key lesson we learned from this district is that we need to have detailed and specific goals …" he said. "Goal-specific funding metrics can allow us to more easily adjust to changing economic conditions."
West Seltice, which closed in 2001 and was the first urban renewal district in the state to close, and Riverbend, which closed in 2012, are the other now-closed districts. All closed early.
"It is the goal of the commission to return the monies to the taxing entities as soon as all the goals and obligations of the district have been met," Fountain said.
Post Falls has four open districts — West Seltice II, East Post Falls, Center Point and Expo.
A fifth district, the Post Falls Technology District, is in the works. The City Council on Tuesday is expected to schedule a public hearing for a date in October to consider adopting the 20-year district plan.
The district would encompass 831 acres — 750 is undeveloped — in the Highway 41 corridor.