Stop HURA Expansion North of Lancaster

    Urban Renewal Agencies, as provided for by State and Federal law, are institutionalized crony-capitalism and the problems with them are complicated and insidious.    The Kootenai Journal recently posted an article that identifies specific problems with Hayden's Urban Renewal District (HURA) and opposes its expansion.

    We agree that URAs have serious problems, and it is not our intention to contradict those who  oppose any expansion of HURA territory.   However, in this article are taking the viewpoint that as long as HURA exists, it is important how it spends tax-payer money and we recognize that some of its projects are more worthwhile than others.  

    We therefore believe that the merits or possible harms of each project associated with HURA's expansion should be considered on a case by case basis.   When we do this, instead of concluding that the district should not be expanded at all, we find that some parcels are associated with high priority projects, while others are not.  Since all parcels added to the HURA district cost the city real revenue, we believe only parcels associated with high priority projects should even be considered for HURA expansion

    We provide a parcel by parcel review below, but this diagram of HURA's proposed expansion zones (in Green), gives a brief view of our recommendations.  

    HURA Recommendations to Expand the District

    HURA states that it's proposal to expand the district was based on an April 14 Joint Workshop between HURA and the City Council.   The topics discussed were as follows:

    • Intersection Improvements on Government Way—Road improvement projects were repeated mentioned as a top priority, particularly at Miles and Honeysuckle. 
    • Community Center—HURA supports, but council concerned about long term funding. 
    • Proposed Park property purchase at Miles and Maples.
    • Croffort Park Improvements.   
    • Ramsey Sewer Project  a high priority but necessary land is already in the district.


    It is significant that no project requiring the expansion of HURA north of Lancaster was discused at the April 14th workshop. 

    HURA has now put forth a specific proposal for expanding its district.  In some cases (green) the benefits of the proposed expansion are clear.   In others, (orange) there may be benefits but they are longer term and lower priority.  And in the case of the expansion of HURA north of Lancaster (red), there are compelling reasons NOT to include the parcel in HURA's district. 

    The properties that HURA recommends including in the expansion are:  

    • 1A- Properties around the intersection of Government Way/Honeysuckle Ave.
    • 1B - Properties at the intersection of Government Way/Orchard Ave.
    • 1E - The north side of Miles Ave. between Government Way and Maple St.
    • 1F - The northeast side of the Government Way/Wyoming Ave. intersection
    • 1G - Commercial properties north of Lancaster Road both sides of US 95.
    • 1K - Southeast corner of Government Way/Lacey Ave.
    • 1N - Lancaster Road right-of-way adjacent to Croffoot Park


    We will consider the worst problem with HURA's proposed expansion first.   Then we'll discuss critical intersections on Government, and finally the property at Maples and Miles. 

    Why HURA should NOT be expanded North of Lancaster

    Expanding HURA’s Urban Renewal District North of Lancaster to include undeveloped Commercial Properties at the city’s northern Border, is not only outside of HURA’s mission, it actively undermines the purpose of an Urban Renewal District, which is to direct commercial development to existing corridors in the city center

    It seems that focusing resources on new development far away from Hayden's central business district is in direct opposition to the city’s stated goal of redeveloping its existing downtown area.  All the other property in the area north of Lancaster has been developed by private corporations without HURA assistance, and there is no compelling reasons for HURA to assist in developing infrastructure for vacant properties outside Hayden's city limits.   

    The inclusion of vacant Commercial properties north of Lancaster has nothing to do with improving Traffic on Government way, and it opens up HURA to more charges of using tax-payer money to benefit private developers.   Furthermore HURA has not made clear why it is including these parcels and this is very likely because it benefits a particular developer.  

    HURA should not expand North of Lancaster.  Such projects draw development away from existing corridors and are the exact opposite of what HURA is charted to do. 

    Why HURA Should Focus on Government Way

    Government way is the only functioning North South Arterial in Hayden East of US-95.  It is already over-loaded and with the imminent development of over 1000 new homes in Hayden Canyon, the congestion will only become worse.  The inadequacy of Government to handle additional traffic is the main obstacle to redevelopment or investment in the downtown area.

    For this reason, the use of HURA funds to widen and improve key intersections should be a top priority.   Realistically, however, given a three to five year time frame for signficant roadway improvements (due to circumstances beyond the city's control), just focusing on the highest priority intersections at Honeysuckle and Miles is probably all the city can handle at this time.       

    The intersection a Wyoming is a high priority, but all of Government Way needs to be widened between Miles and Lancaster, a project that will require state funding.  Therefore,   Wyoming should be considered a medium priority project, unless the widening project is so many years off that improvements on Wyoming are needed in the interim.  

    Orchard and Lacey,  are even lower priority, especially when considering the fact that many upgrades are needed throughout the city as well as those on government.    For that reason, their inclusion in HURA's URD would likely cost the city significant tax revenue without providing any near term benefit.  

    To give an idea of how important improvements to Government way are,  the following  model from Hayden's 2040 Traffic Master Plan shows that even after all of the proposed improvements to Government way are made, it will still be the most congested traffic corridor in all of Hayden.  And this is largely due to HURA's decision over a decade ago, to develop Government as a two lane, rather than a four lane arterial. 

    Proposed Park Property Purchase at Miles and Maples.

    Many people have principled objections to using HURA funds to purchase private property for a city park at Miles and Maples.    It seems somewhat hypocritical and unfair to residents of West Hayden,where city planners envision acres of High density housing,to invest in a neighborhood park in East Hayden,where almost all city representatives, HURA members, and P/Z Commissioners live.  

    But it is for EXACTLY this reason, that we support HURA's purchase of park property.   We would like to see East and West Hayden united in the goal of preserving open space and restricting density within the city,  and if that means preserving more open space in East Hayden, that is a better use of HURA funds then building additional sewers and lift stations to accelerate growth in North and West Hayden.  

    We believe it will be much harder for East Hayden City Offiicals to justify their densification crusade against West Hayden, after authorizing the purchase of the Miles/Maples property to protect their own neighborhood from overdevelopment.   

    We have vocally opposed densification in West Hayden; how could we fail to support East Hayden residents who seek to protect their community.  

    In short, any HURA funds that don't get spent on fixing intersections on Government way, or purchasing a park property in East Hayden, will likely be spent upgrading utilities and building parking lots for private corporations and multi-family developers.    The purchase of the Miles-Maple property could set a precedent for slow growth and resisting over-development in East Hayden, that should should be applied throughout the city. 



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