Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Thursday, August 30, 2007

"Pullman mulls tax-sharing offer from county"

Market forces will bring growth to the highly underdeveloped Palouse, especially in the areas of retail and housing. We can plan for it and reap the benefits or we can stick our heads in the sand and lose out. Moscow is currently following the latter course. Multi-jurisdictional cooperation on these matters is vital. Again, we can fight and bicker with each other, to everyone's mutual loss, as Moscow is currently doing with Whitman County over the corridor, or work together, as Pullman and Whitman County are doing according to this story in yesterday's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Agreement could allow city to annex some land without opposition

Whitman County commissioners have reversed their stance on future Pullman annexation in order to advance potential development around the city.

City Supervisor John Sherman reported at Tuesday's City Council meeting that county officials have revised a proposal for a 50-50 split of commercial retail sales tax in the Pullman-Moscow corridor to allow the city some room for growth.

Sherman said the county is ready to allow the city to annex land along the corridor in the future, and is prepared to identify an area in which the city could potentially annex without opposition.

Sherman said an area roughly bound by Albion Road, U.S. Highway 195 and the proposed south bypass that would extend into the corridor as far as Sunshine Road to the east has been identified by the county as an area the city could annex in the future.

"This is a very unique offer," Sherman said. "I think (the county) should be commended for their innovation."

The amended material is based on a February 2005 document provided to the city by the county suggesting a 50-50 split of sales-tax revenue from businesses along the highway, as long as those businesses do not receive infrastructure from another entity.

The county also offered to help pay for the extension of utilities into the corridor. In exchange, the county asked that the city not further annex land in the corridor and use 10 percent of the sales tax revenue to improve infrastructure along the highway.

The city declined the offer as written in April 2005. As a counter proposal, the city revised the terms of the document to include annexation in the corridor east to Sunshine Road.

Currently, the breakdown of the 1 percent local share of sales tax grants .85 percent to Pullman and .15 percent to the county on sales made within city limits. Within unincorporated areas - which includes the Pullman-Moscow Highway - 100 percent of sales tax goes to the county.

Sherman said the county is willing to bond some of its .09 sales-tax dollars - provided by the state and awarded by the county to assist rural communities with economic development - to pay for a project to extend utilities to the Rolling Hills area, which is located in the corridor near the Avista Utilities shop.

It could cost as much as $6 million to extend services to Rolling Hills, Sherman said.

Also in the proposal, the county expressed an interest in retaining a buffer area north of U.S. Highway 195 between Wawawai Road and South Grand Avenue for future commercial development. The county further suggested that some areas along South Grand be prezoned from commercial to residential, as much of the area is primarily used for private residences.

The county also would like the city to consider changing its policy against extending utilities into unincorporated areas.

Sherman said the county hopes a development company would be able to connect to city utilities - at the developer's cost - and not run the risk of future annexation.

City Council members discussed the proposal at length and agreed that further tweaking of the document would be needed in order to forge an agreement. City staff will research the implications of the proposal and return to the council with a report in the coming weeks.

Councilman Keith Bloom commended the county on its creative thinking and attempts at cooperation.

"I think it's an excellent idea to create a template that may be used by other entities across the state," he said. "I think this could, collectively, be to the betterment of the city and county."

Councilman Barney Waldrop agreed.

"I think some wonderful progress has been made," he said.

Sherman said it will take a great deal of work for there to be development in the corridor.

"If utilities are ever going to be extended, it's going to have to take a cooperative effort," he said. "I think everything is negotiable. What it will come down to is what's in it for both parties."

1 comment:

April E. Coggins said...

15% of something is better than 100% of nothing.