Consultant's plan would divert future tax dollars to RDA

June 07, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Four men could stand in the way of Marshall Linn's plan.

Linn, president of Urban Futures, a redevelopment consulting firm based in Orange, has written an amendment to the city's redevelopment plan.

If the City Council approves his amendment, the plan would bring about 90 percent of the city under the jurisdiction of the city's redevelopment plan, diverting millions of future tax dollars from the city's general fund into the coffers of the city Redevelopment Agency.

He touted the proposed amendment Tuesday during a public hearing in City Hall.

The hearing had been scheduled so the City Council could decide whether it wants to approve Linn's plan and hire his firm to rewrite the 5-inch thick plan that guides the RDA's actions.


However, the council was unable to vote Tuesday because four members of the city Planning Commission unanimously rejected the environmental impact review drawn up in conjunction with Linn's plan.

They also rejected the overall general redevelopment plan 4-0, according to Armando Zuniga, chairman of the commission.

The three commissioners voting with Zuniga were John Moreno, Richard Romero and Jerry Grijalva.

Linn plead his case anyway Tuesday.

He said the redevelopment plan, conceived in the basement of Calexico's old City Hall in 1979, needs to be updated for the fourth time so the city can fund redevelopment projects for the next 15 years.

Some of the land in Linn's "amended plan" includes farmland on the eastern edge of town zoned for new homes.

Arturo Selwick, a planning commissioner and downtown businessman, said Linn's plan would deprive the city's general fund of property taxes that would be generated when those homes are built.

At the Planning Commission meeting when the board voted down Linn's plan, Linn said Selwick had a conflict of interest because he owns land in Calexico. As a result, Selwick could not vote on Linn's plan.

The Planning Commission — without Selwick's vote — rejected the environmental impact study commissioned for Linn's plan anyway.

Selwick on Tuesday accused Linn of a conflict of interest because his firm would profit if the board decided to update the RDA plan.

Mayor Pro Tem John Renison addressed the possible conflict of interest.

"The paperwork required to update the redevelopment plan would be handled by Urban Futures at a substantial cost because of the work involved," Renison said.

He said he thinks there is no conflict of interest with Linn bringing the plan to the city because Linn is on retainer with the city and has worked on such types of projects in the past.

Renison said he is keeping an open mind and didn't say if he would vote for the plan.

Rudolfo Moreno, city treasurer, is an outspoken critic of Linn's plan. He didn't even want to say Linn's name during the meeting.

"I can't bring myself to do it," Moreno said.

He said Linn hasn't provided the city with numbers that show how the city's general fund would be affected by the addition of so much land into the RDA plan.

General fund dollars go toward paying police, fire and other city employees and expense while RDA funds can only be used on specific redevelopment projects.

Before voting against the plan, Zuniga said he talked to representatives from the police and fire departments.

He said they told him a loss of money from the general fund would affect the departments' ability to protect and serve.

Moreno asked the council, "Do you have the numbers? How much money per year would be diverted? Can anyone tell me?"

Mayor Victor Carrillo told Moreno the council wasn't voting on the matter Tuesday and that the point of the public hearing was to get input from the community.

City Councilman Gilbert Grijalva argued before the hearing even began that the hearing seemed "non-legal."

Linn's plan cannot be approved without at least a 4-1 vote to overturn the Planning Commission's decision.

If a councilman votes against the plan and one councilman joins him, the plan will die, according to Linn.

The plan will be brought back before the joint session of the City Council and RDA board at a June 19 meeting. That will allow enough time for the public to review the Planning Commission's decision, according to state law.

If the four councilmen don't overturn the Planning Commission's decision, the plan will die and the city will miss out on a big economic opportunity, according to Linn.

Zuniga laughed.

"It's a big economic opportunity for Linn all right," he said.

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419.

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