Guest Opinions

Guest Opinion: Urban renewal result in Eagle is a parking lot?

For the city of Eagle, nothing says “daring do” progress like a new parking lot! Especially when it contains a whopping 40 parking spaces at a cost of $23,750 each. If the city of Eagle’s Urban Renewal Agency (EURA) has its way, there will be a brand-new piece of asphalt heaven in place of the old Chevron station in downtown Eagle.

On May 5, the agency board proudly presented its newly approved architectural plans for the parking lot for a piece of ground it doesn’t own. An excellent example of “cart ahead of the horse” planning. Without successful acquisition of the land, these plans are at best only new wallpaper for City Hall.

There are a number of other problems that stand in the way of this Horizontal Monument to “blight eradication.”

• The first problem is finding a way to pay for the million-plus-dollar cost of making this EURA dream a reality. It could easily take every tax increment dollar EURA receives for the next 16 years and command the full faith and credit limit ($950,000) of Eagle to do so.

• Then there is that pesky current city ordinance which prohibits new parking lots in downtown Eagle, but hey, the URA commissioners are also city councilors who can “pitch and hit” all at the same time. Look for a council resolution approving their new parking lot soon.

• The court may not grant possession via eminent domain for a variety of reasons, but the cost of attorney fees to try will still be due and payable.

• EURA has no control over the financial award the jury that will ultimately hear this case could decide. If EURA’s appraised price is found to be low by just 10 percent less than the jury award, all parties’ attorney fees can be laid at the feet of EURA to pay. Ouch.

If EURA is successful in this endeavor, each and every downtown Eagle property owner should be prepared for triple-digit percentage increases in their property value assessments next year.

Between the lost tax revenue (agency land holdings are tax exempt) and the ongoing costs of maintenance, EURA will have produced the perfect storm of new highly inflated taxes for all of downtown Eagle’s business owners.

It will be at least another year or more the EURA’s “all in” strategy to seek the blessings of the court, but in the meantime the currently leased portion of the proposed parking lot will remain an all-terrain vehicle access area. (Someone forgot to demand a smoother finished surface from the demolition people). Oops.

Lastly, the commissioners also suggested charging for parking as early as Eagle Fun Days this year. If only the Kiwanis will see the wisdom of operating the lot for them! What “Fun Day” patron wouldn’t jump at the chance to park in the dirt and mud for a buck an hour? It might raise as much as a grand in revenue for some lucky civic group.

Aren’t decisions by committee a thing of wonder?

Kim Blough, of Eagle, is a third-generation Idahoan, entrepreneur, businessman and CEO of Markim Investments LLC.