Tis the season for bustling activity and planning for the city of Kalispell. In the coming weeks and months the city council and staff are slated to tackle several substantial items, including the future state of Kidsports Complex, a vision for redevelopment and revitalization in Kalispell’s core area and a possible citywide ban of using handheld devices while driving.
Most pressing is the situation surrounding the popular youth sports landmark. To a backdrop of emergent criticism and a looming timetable, the city council is contemplating whether to use available funds from a tax increment finance (TIF) district to pay for Kidsports’ permanent easement. A work session on the topic was scheduled for Nov. 26 and a decision could be made by mid-December.
The council recently agreed to terms of a deal with the state of Montana on a payment plan that would cement Kidsports in its current location on state-owned school trust land in north Kalispell. The cost for the permanent easement — $2.3 million — can be paid incrementally over five years. Or the total amount can be paid in full right away, saving the Kidsports nonprofit organization from paying additional fees, which are estimated to be several hundred thousand dollars over the five-year span. The payment plan goes into effect starting Jan. 1, 2013.
The city of Kalispell could cover the entire $2.3 million payment right away using funds from the TIF district that was originally established in connection with Kidsports’ inception. This would not only save the Kidsports organization a sizeable amount of money and time, it would also free up the organization to focus on fundraising efforts for additional improvements at the complex, including the completion of Four Mile Drive and more fields and parking.
City Manager Doug Russell laid out the city’s options for financial assistance for Kidsports in a recent staff memo. They include providing no assistance and making Kidsports generate the entire amount through private fundraising; appropriating the entire amount from the TIF fund; loan or grant provisions that would pay back funds into the TIF; or issuing general obligation bonds that would need authorization through an election.
In 1996, the city council adopted the “Kalispell City Airport/Athletic Complex Redevelopment Plan” as a way to upgrade the municipal airport to higher federal design standards. In order to do this, 16 nearby youth athletics fields would need to be relocated to “a consolidated recreation complex,” as stated in the original document. As a result, a TIF district was established in the immediate area.
Today the district contains almost the exact amount needed to purchase Kidsports’ easement. City staff contends that using the available funds would be appropriate because the original relocation project remains incomplete until Kidsports is permanently in place.
However, the city’s Urban Renewal Agency Board recently raised opposition to the city using TIF dollars for Kidsports’ easement. At a recent advisory meeting, the board unanimously opposed that option, saying it unfairly places the financial burden on one section of town and diminishes the area’s redevelopment tool. The board members — Tom Lund, Shannon Nalty, Suzanne Faubert, Marc Rold and Murphy McMahon — recommended instead floating a citywide bond or levy for voters to decide upon.
Nalty reiterated the board’s concerns at last week’s city council meeting. He said there are redevelopment projects that could be completed in south Kalispell using TIF dollars instead of directing the funds to the north. Removing those funds would only harm business development and investment in Kalispell’s south corridor, he said.
- The Kalispell Core Area Revitalization Plan appears to be gathering steam. The city’s planning board recently approved the plan, presented by CTA Architects Engineers and a steering committee. The core area plan will likely be presented to the city council for discussion next month. By February, a feasibility study of the plan and its core area of focus should be completed and presented as well, at which point implementation of projects within the plan could occur. The council recently approved the expansion of the West Side Urban Renewal District to include parts of the core area.
- On Nov. 26, the council was presented a sample ordinance that, if approved, would enact a citywide ban on operating handheld devices while driving. Kalispell Police Chief Roger Nasset surveyed similar bans in Whitefish, Columbia Falls and Missoula before drafting a sample ordinance to present to council.
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