Don't Tax Me, Bro!
Long ago, in a galaxy far far away, back when the Redevelopment Agency Advisory Board was actually a relevant organization, a guy by the name of Jim Galloway who I 'think' is the President of the Palladio Homeowner's Association, began showing up to every single meeting complaining about the tax district and how some downtown residents were unfairly taxed. Just as he was making headway with his issue, the agency was gutted, adding some frustrating delays to addressing the issue.
More recently, the council agreed to take up the challenging issue. Due to its density and being our entertainment district, downtown has two 'extra' tax districts that the rest of town does not have. When the downtown police district was formed in 1995, downtown was full of large and medium sized casinos including the Circus Circus; Silver Legacy; Eldorado; Fitzgerald’s; Flamingo Hilton; Harrah’s; Sundowner; Sands Regency; Riverboat; Virginian and the Comstock. Smaller casinos included: Harold’s Club; Club Cal-Neva; Nevada Club; the Nugget; Old Reno Casino; and the Gold Dust West. The casinos were the driving force for this police tax district, which pays for extra officers downtown. At the time, Arlington Towers was deliberately left out due to its residential status.
In the early days of these districts the major hotel casinos represented 85% to 90% of the values downtown and residential properties virtually nothing. Today, hotel casinos in the police district represent less than 50% of the assessed values and residential properties (condominiums) represent 20%. So, residents in the Palladio, Montage, Riverwalk Towers and elsewhere are paying for a proportionately higher chunk of this assessment.
Then there's the downtown maintenance district. This district was created in 1992 based on the same structure where casinos would pick up most of the tab and also provide 'loaned' operators to help with the maintenance. The loaned operators have since dwindled, and residential properties now account for 28% of the assessed value of the maintenance district. Then in 1997 both of these tax districts were converted to special assessment districts.
Over the past 120 days, City Staff have developed 16 possible options to fix these assessment districts and make it more fair to residents, however they are requesting an additional 90 days at today's meeting to iron out the details.
CommRow is asking to breach the City's right-of-way on West Commercial Row to build a shaded trellis for outdoor dining. I don't foresee any issues with the city granting CommRow right-of-way access for the trellis.
Remember Ponte Vecchio? If you don't check this out. It was to be a super high end luxurious river-front residential project. The project was canned, the land sits empty and weed-ridden, and now the property is delinquent in Washoe County taxes. The City regularly reviews delinquent properties in search of ones that might serve a public purpose, and they have their eyes focused on this one as possible affordable housing or open space. Would make a great expansion of Lundsford Park. The current owners have until March 12, 2012 to pay up, otherwise the city can receive the property without paying the delinquent tax owed.
North Virginia Street Makeover
The gateway street connecting downtown to the University is getting a makeover! On May 26, 2010, the City Council approved an agreement with the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) for design and construction of street enhancements to North Virginia Street between Fourth and Sixth Streets in an amount not to exceed $621,640 to be paid by an federal enhancement grant (95%) and City of Reno Street Fund (5%). Council also directed staff to bring back the project design for approval at a later date, and it looks like that date has arrived. The final streetscape will look similar to Virginia Street from the Truckee River to Fourth Street. The entire Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Street intersections will be reconstructed with new pavement, cross-walks, pedestrian ramps and traffic signal equipment. The two blocks between Fourth and Sixth Streets will also be completely reconstructed. The roadway geometry will not change; there will be two travel lanes in each direction and 18’ wide sidewalks on both sides of the street, per the Reno Municipal Code for the Downtown Redevelopment District. The sidewalks will be colored stamped concrete with brick-red soldier course separating the curb and gutter from the sidewalk for accent. Existing landscaping and planter boxes will be replaced with new trees and a new irrigation system. The beautification project will also provide for the installation of new lighting fixtures and the black and gold concrete trash receptacles to match the existing improvements south of Fourth Street on Virginia Street.
Affected merchants have been involved in the process and are excited to see its completion. Advertisement for bids should go out in January and construction is tentatively slated for between March through June 2012, in order to not affect any special events.
Hanging Flower Baskets for 2012 Season
No bueno! The 2012 season of the hanging flower basket program for downtown is currently not included in the city's general budget. The anticipated cost for the 2012 season for 75 baskets is $18,750. The cost is higher because further staff reductions since last year require that we purchase baskets rather than build them with existing staff and volunteers. In August Staff sent letters to the 2011 season sponsors requesting pledges for the 2012 season and distributed a press release seeking additional donors. They received $7,355 in pledges thus far, but that falls far short of the $18,750 required. Staff must place an order no later than November 1, 2011 to pre-order baskets for 2012. Ideas? Thoughts? The flower baskets really do make a huge difference downtown.