/ Urban Renewal / White City Urban Renewal - Background
White City is an unincorporated area of Jackson County located along Highway 62 between the cities of Medford and Eagle Point. During World War II, White City served as a military installation known as Camp White. In 1946, Camp White was deactivated leaving behind an extensive infrastructure including roads, sewer lines, and water. The availability of these services prompted the development of the land for residential, commercial, and industrial purposes.
White City is the fourth largest population center in the county, with more than 6,000 people and is comprised of a broad range of urban, residential, commercial, and industrial land uses. The area functions as a major county employment center with an array of light to heavy manufacturing activities including a large number of timber mills. During the 1980's, White City experienced a loss of population, an increase in improper use of the area’s resources, and a downturn in the timber industry leading to increased unemployment.
White City suffers from a large number of infrastructure problems such as inadequate streets, sewers, water systems, housing, and lacks public facilities and recreational opportunities. The lack of urban standards for many of the area’s streets, age, obsolescence, and lack of an attractive appearance of many of the properties have inhibited the development of the area and led to a devaluation of structural values in the residential areas. The result has been an overall decline in the property values in White City, a loss of revenues for schools and government, and a decline in the amount of revenues that White City pays for public services.
The proliferation of these problems over the past decade led the county, in April 1991, to declare White City a “blighted area” and establish an urban renewal district to begin rebuilding the infrastructure, public facilities, and parks.
Stabilizing the Community
Urban renewal is one of the primary methods cities and counties use to help build infrastructure, attract job-producing industry, and stabilize the community. Urban renewal was established in Oregon by constitutional amendment in the 1950's and has been successfully used in communities throughout Oregon and the United States.
In April 1998, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners approved an Industrial Park for White City. 84 million dollars in capital improvements for the White City area are to be completed by 2015. Projects include the replacement of sewer lines, new roads, storm drains, streetlights, sidewalks, and water lines, the purchase of parks and community facilities, and housing rehabilitation. The primary goals of the Urban Renewal Agency are to:
- Stabilize property values
- Stimulate private development
- Improve living conditions for residents
- Improve the overall quality of life for residents
- Administering Urban Renewal
The Urban Renewal Agency consists of the three elected members of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners and is administered by an Executive Director. A seven member Advisory Committee appointed by the Urban Renewal Board makes recommendations on project priorities and plan amendments. The committee consists of members representing White City business and industry, taxing districts, and the community.
Financing Urban Renewal
The Jackson County Urban Renewal Agency finances its projects and operations through state and federal grants and tax increment financing, which make up the bulk of the money. Simply put, tax increment financing allows a portion of the taxes from the increased assessed value of an improved property to be temporarily used to pay the cost of corresponding public improvements.
Tax increment financing is generally used where conditions have deteriorated to such a point that it is difficult to attract private development. Typical urban renewal activities include development of infrastructure such as streets, sewer and water, land acquisition, and construction of public facilities. Improvement of these features often attracts new, private development to the area which, in turn, brings jobs, increases property values, and generates additional tax revenue. Under state guidelines, the Urban Renewal Agency sells redevelopment bonds which are repaid with revenues generated by tax increment financing.
Oregon state law allows cities and counties to create urban renewal districts that make up as much as 15 percent of the total land area. For counties, urban renewal is only permitted in areas designated in the comprehensive plan as “urban growth (containment) boundaries”. As of June 30, 1993, Jackson County’s urban renewal area contains 3,532.5 acres of land or about 5.52 square miles. Jackson County has about 2,801 square miles of land. The urban renewal district represents about 2 percent, significantly less than 15 percent.