City continues to wind down redevelopment

2013-02-26T19:12:00Z 2013-02-26T19:15:43Z City continues to wind down redevelopmentCHANTAL M. LOVELL Napa Valley Register
February 26, 2013 7:12 pm  • 

Winding down the affairs of the former Napa Community Redevelopment Agency is a slow-going, tedious process, said Jennifer LaLiberté, the city’s economic development manager who led the former agency that helped remake downtown over the past 40 years.

Napa hopes the state will soon agree that the city did due diligence when it comes to auditing the funds, liabilities and assets of the agency.

“It’s a serious milestone,” LaLiberté said, adding that she expects the city to receive the state-issued designation in April.

The state dissolved roughly 400 agencies across the state of California a year ago, saying it needed these property tax revenues to help pay for schools.

The city must still produce a long-range property management plan detailing what it plans to do with the agency’s real estate assets: the building on Main Street that currently houses the Napa Firefighters Museum, and a loading dock behind Kohl’s Department Store.

LaLiberté said it may be fall before it’s clear what could happen with the two properties. She said the shutdown oversight board may choose to sell immediately, or may want to hold onto the assets until the market rebounds. Or the board could come up with another plan.

Jeff Hunter, president of the Napa Firefighters Museum, said volunteers are preparing to eventually move the museum’s contents into storage, but they’re taking advantage of the extra time they’ve been granted. They plan to host more school tours this spring and be open more during the summer. A Facebook page for patrons has been created to keep them posted on the happenings of the free museum.

Staff is also working on completing the transfer of three parking garages, eight surface parking lots and a public plaza to the city of Napa. The facilities, all located downtown, once belonged to the agency but were transferred to the city of Napa before the state dissolved redevelopment, LaLiberté said.

When the state ended redevelopment, it retroactively reversed those transfers, sending them back into the hands of the now defunct Napa Community Redevelopment Agency. That move concerned many at the local level because the parking lots and plaza outside the Opera House were in jeopardy of being seized by the state.

LaLiberté said the city now has a chance at getting those public assets back, but the transfer will have to be approved by the state’s Department of Finance.

“It’s a huge administrative burden,” LaLiberté said of the time she and staff from the city and county have spent thus far winding down the agency. She said the city receives a stipend from the state to reimburse time spent on the work, but it doesn’t cover the full cost. The city has probably taken a $50,000 hit, she said.

“When they wrote these laws, they didn’t realize or have any idea what it would take,” LaLiberté said. “If they’d worked with the redevelopment community, they could have avoided a lot of these unintended consequences.”

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