CARSON CITY — A bill to extend by 15 years the life span of the Las Vegas redevelopment agency saw only limited opposition in a hearing Wednesday before the Assembly Government Affairs Committee.
Assembly Bill 50 is being sought by the city so that revenue could be freed up to pursue new redevelopment projects. It would extend the life of the agency from 2031 to 2046 and free up revenue by allowing the refinancing of existing debt.
City Manager Betsy Fretwell said even with $1.5 billion in added taxable value in the district, the agency is breaking even, using existing revenues to pay off debt for prior projects.
Extending the life of the district to allow the city to pursue new projects is “an incredible opportunity for us to keep that momentum going,” she said.
Bill Arent, director of the redevelopment agency, said the district is critical to moving downtown Las Vegas forward with economic diversification and job creation.
Downtown is being revitalized with new technology companies, restaurants and nightlife, he said. Economic development is all about place, Arent said. To compete with cities such as Austin, Texas, or New York, the city needs to create a “sense of place” downtown, he said.
Mayor Carolyn Goodman said the Las Vegas redevelopment district is drawing attention internationally and from around the country.
“We’ve doubled the tax base, and we’ve added 1,541 jobs during this past fiscal year, which is really what it’s all about to pull us all back out of this malaise and this sinking economy,” she said.
Lobbyist Russell Rowe, representing Boyd Gaming, Zappos and the Nevada Development Authority, testified in support of the bill on behalf of all three clients. Boyd Gaming is not involved in redevelopment efforts but is benefiting from the efforts made by the city in improving downtown, he said.
Zappos, which has been a driver in downtown redevelopment, also wants to see the efforts and successes continue, Rowe said.
Other companies with investments in downtown testified in support.
Representatives of the Clark County School District and the Nevada Association of School Boards expressed concerns about the extension’s effect on the property tax revenues received for public schools. An amendment to the bill might alleviate those concerns, however.
Jack Mallory, representing the Southern Nevada Building and Construction Trades Council, said the group supports the intent of the district but asked whether more efforts could be made to employ those who reside within the district on redevelopment projects.
Assemblyman Elliot Anderson, D-Las Vegas, also expressed a concern about a provision in the bill allowing for the creation of tourism improvement districts. Those districts have not worked well in Northern Nevada, he said.
Fretwell said the city is willing to work with the committee to create a structure in which tourism districts would be successful. The issue is expected to come forward in a separate bill, she said.
Another controversial item, to extend a 2 percent downtown room tax to fund the Fremont Street Experience, is proposed to be deleted from the bill, Fretwell said. The city needs to have more dialogue with downtown hotels before considering such an option, she said.