In addition to the City Council meeting, the Mesquite Redevelopment Agency (RDA) will meet at 4:00 pm today to discuss the administrative and approval processes of the current Redevelopment Agency Financial Incentive Programs.
The program awards RDA funds to businesses to make permanent improvements to properties located within the RDA tax district, primarily located on Mesquite and Sandhill Blvds.
Based on changes made by the RDA Board in 2009, City Staff is currently charged with approving requests for RDA funds in four areas: building, remodeling and rehabilitation up to $99,999; façade rehabilitation up to $50,000; sign replacement up to $15,000; and city-related fees up to $30,000.
Those changes were made to decrease approval times applicants experienced when applying for RDA funds. Previously, all requests were made to the full RDA Board.
"Based on feedback, Staff is seeking direction regarding the current administrative and approval processes for the programs," says the background material for the agenda item. "The feedback can be reduced down to two overarching themes-trust and control. Does the RDA Board trust the current process? Does the RDA Board need greater control over the approvals?"
The RDA Board is comprised of the Mayor and the five council members.
According to the background material, Staff is providing the Board with three options:
--Option 1-Leave the administrative and approval processes as is. The actual programs appear to be effective in assisting interested property owners and businesses. Currently, [the guiding rules] grant authority to the Redevelopment Director or Zoning Official to approve or deny financial assistance by the redevelopment agency up to the specified limits. If Staff approves the application for RDA funds, the Mayor holds the final approval for funds disbursement.
--Option 2-Adjust administrative funding approval levels. If the RDA Board desires greater control over individual projects, but still want to periodically utilize the current business-friendly process, the Board could approve new amounts for administrative approval.
In 2009 when the current programs and their associated thresholds
were established, Council stated that they trusted the Mayor and staff to make decisions up to those thresholds. Council also stated that they did want control over anything above or different from the established guidelines. Some examples of RDA Board approved non-traditional projects are the former Courtyard Plaza (northwest corner of Sandhill Blvd and Mesquite Blvd) and the Solstice loan.
--Option 3-Have the RDA Board approve or disapprove all applications. Rather than having the director or official approve the application, the RDA Board could approve or deny all financial assistance applications. If an applicant was dissatisfied with the decision, they could appeal to the City Council. (Currently, the RDA Board and the City Council are the same people. However, they do not have to be.) Staff could still intake the application, review it for completeness and verify that the application complies with program guidelines.
The background material for the agenda says that "presently, Staff is not processing RDA Financial Assistance applications, pending the outcome of the Mesquite Indoor Sports Center (MISC). If the RDA Board so desires, Staff can again begin processing applications. This can be done prior to the final decision on the MISC. Staff feels it necessary to note that if applications are approved prior to the final decision about the MISC, there will be diminished funds available to construct the MISC."
It was revealed in March that City Staff had made a decision to freeze RDA funding for business projects pending the outcome of the City Council's decision on whether to use the remaining $2.5 million in RDA bond money for the proposed sports/events complex.
The Mesquite Citizen Journal did an in-depth investigation in October 2011 into how the RDA funds have been used in the past, including disbursements of the money. For more information please access these two stories:
The Real Deal With RDA Funds - Part I
The Real Deal With RDA Funds - Part II