Two trailer bills that are part of the recently passed California state budget have caused major building projects in Galt to come to an abrupt halt and have left city officials without a definitive plan on how to move forward.
The trailer bills — ABX1 26 and ABX1 27 — place strict regulations on redevelopment agencies throughout the state, from suspending and prohibiting any further agency activity to requiring cities to individually pay the state a specified amount of money to keep their redevelopment agencies open — something Galt city officials are concerned may not even be legal.
ABX1 26, which went into effect immediately once Gov. Jerry Brown signed the budget, is already causing serious problems in Galt with regards to the Old Town Properties Relocation Plan.
The plan, meant to be voted on and approved at Galt City Council meeting Tuesday, was tabled because the city is now forbidden by state law to move forward with the project unless they pay the state government roughly $1 million initially to keep the city's redevelopment agency going.
"We were on the precipice of moving forward with the project and getting things underway, and then we get the rug pulled out from under us," City Manager Jason Behrmann said. "There are a lot of uncertainties here, and it's unfortunate because we were really close to completing these (projects)."
The plan, which targeted the area between B and C streets and 4th Avenue, was looking to revamp a section of the city that housed very low-income to moderate-income residents.
If approved, the plan would provide additional parking spaces and new stores and businesses to the Old Town area. However, it would require 10 tenants who live in the housing structures targeted for demolition and rebuilding to permanently relocate.
Businesses already in Old Town were looking forward to adding more stores to not only increase foot traffic in the area, but to boost local revenue as well.
Alex Origoni, co-owner of Brewster's Bar and Grill located in Old Town, said he would welcome more restaurants in the area to try to increase commercial activity.
"We don't exactly have a lot of neighbors," he said. "I honestly wouldn't mind more restaurants because the more there are, the more everyone benefits. I don't buy into the philosophy that as more businesses come in, the 'pieces of the pie' get smaller. I would like to think we get bigger pieces of pie because we are bringing more business in."
Bringing in more business is exactly what Galt city officials were hoping to do, according to Behrmann, but now that the project has been halted, its future is uncertain.
To try to get not only Galt but other cities throughout the state back on track, City Attorney Steve Rudolph said the California Redevelopment Association and the League of California Cities are preparing to file a lawsuit to try determine if the state can legally require cities to pay the government money to keep their redevelopment agencies alive.
But processing the paperwork could take a couple of weeks, Rudolph said at the meeting.
Going forward, the council will need to decide whether or not to pay the initial amount of roughly $1 million dollars to maintain the city's redevelopment agency and thus allow renovation and building projects to move forward.
Should the city decide to pay the amount, it will then have to pay an additional $240,000 the following year to stay in compliance with state law, Rudolph added.
"There are a lot of moving parts and a lot of players here," Rudolph said. "While the government wants to shut down redevelopment agencies, it seems to me that this decision requires a lot of additional work for a lot of other government agencies, starting with the state and working its way down."
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