Sonoma County still wrangling with state over redevelopment projects

Sonoma County government leaders and state officials continue to tussle over the fate of two large redevelopment projects in the unincorporated area of the county.

After more than a month of back-and-forth letters from the county and responses by the state, the tug-of-war has turned on a new issue — whether the county can count on $2.4 million in future tax dollars to carry out the two projects.

One would transform a former shopping center in Roseland into a commercial and residential complex with a community plaza. The other would complete street, sidewalk and lighting upgrades to Highway 12 in an area north of Sonoma known as the Springs.

Both have been in limbo along with other county and local city projects since about 400 redevelopment agencies statewide were dissolved Feb. 1 as part of Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to use their revenues to help plug the state budget gap.

Local governments have been learning in recent weeks just how much money the state will let them keep to continue paying for existing projects and programs, and how much must be diverted back to underlying taxing entities, such as school districts.

Combined, the Highway 12 and Roseland projects account for $16.8 million in unspent funds, including accrued property tax revenue, bond funds and future tax proceeds.

All of the funding may still be in jeopardy.

The latest turn is the state's objection to the county's use of future tax collections to complete the projects. The combined $2.4 million, to be drawn from property tax revenue in the coming years, includes $1.9 million for Highway 12 and $500,000 for the Roseland project.

In a May 18 letter, Department of Finance officials said the funds constitute loans between the county and its former redevelopment agency and do not qualify as "enforceable obligations," the term for projects that can be continued with redevelopment dollars.

In a response letter <NO1><NO>May 24, county officials objected to that characterization, reasserting their claim that the funds are part of valid redevelopment contracts.

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