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Talent votes down proposal to fund urban renewal plan

 New homes rise near the rubble of the Almeda fire, March 2021.
Geoffrey Riley
/
JPR News
New homes rise near the rubble of the Almeda fire, March 2021.

According to preliminary results from the May 16 special election, residents of Talent voted down a plan to fund the city’s urban renewal plan using money from property taxes.

During the election, voters were asked whether or not to fund a plan that would revitalize areas devastated by the 2020 Almeda Fire. Almost two-thirds of residents voted against it on Tuesday.

Talent City Manager Jordan Rooklyn said the 16 projects in the plan are still a priority for the city, which will now look for different ways to fund them.

"Our next major step will be to start prioritizing which projects we want to get done first and really focus our efforts on figuring out the best financing plans to help make those happen," she said.

She said other financing options might include grants or bonds.

But according to Talent Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood, the city will now have to balance funding with how to prioritize these projects.

"I think we're gonna have to be very smart and very careful how we approach the rest of the work that we need to do so that we prioritize in such a way that what we do supports the next task and then that task supports other tasks," she said. "It can get really complicated and difficult when you don't have control of the resources on the front side."

She said finding the estimated $14 million needed to complete the projects might take a decade, based on competition for grants.

"But you know, I feel hopeful about it," she said. "There are grants for the type of work that we want to get done. We'll be in competition with other communities for that type of grant. So I just think it's going to be more of a time concern than anything else. I don't think it'll be any more difficult. I think it'll just take longer."

The plan would have been financed using tax-increment financing, which uses property tax revenue within a certain geographic area to fund these new urban renewal projects. The city estimated this TIF would have generated nearly $19 million over the next 20 years.

The City of Talent's 16 urban renewal projects have four goals: speed up affordable housing construction, revitalize commercial areas, upgrade public infrastructure and improve natural disaster preparation.

The TIF funding plan faced strong opposition, in particular from Jackson County Fire District 5, since it would have forgone tax revenue under the proposal.

Jane Vaughan began her journalism career as a reporter for a community newspaper in Portland, Maine. She's been a producer at New Hampshire Public Radio and worked on WNYC's On The Media. Jane recently earned her Master's in Journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.