Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Friday, Jan. 26 @ 10:42 a.m. / Economy, Local Government
Crescent City Seeks Grant Funding, Will Spearhead Economic Development Plan Update
Noting that a lot of work went into formulating Del Norte County’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategic Plan, or CEDS, Crescent City Mayor Blake Inscore said he wanted to make sure its update didn’t collect dust on a shelf.
Inscore felt the same about a proposed Downtown Master Plan. He told his colleagues Monday that he believes Crescent City should develop such a plan, but referred to its Economic Development Strategic Action Plan, which was created in conjunction with the CEDS, and said it’s easy to create a document that doesn’t have any real value.
“There’s a lot of work involved in this beyond just collecting data,” Inscore said. “I firmly believe that the CEDS, even the one that exists has a strong framework. There’s plenty in there right now that would [be] a driving influence for economic development.”
Inscore and his colleagues on the Crescent City Council on Monday authorized staff to seek U.S. Economic Development Administration grant dollars to update the 2019-2024 Del Norte Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy and to create a Downtown Master Plan. The city is seeking $50,000 to spearhead the CEDS update and $200,000 for the Downtown Master Plan.
Inscore and Councilor Kelly Schellong also agreed to work with city staff as they develop both strategies.
The countywide 2019-2024 CEDS was adopted by Crescent City, Del Norte County and the Crescent City Harbor District in March 2020. Though the project included all three agencies, the city took the lead, holding town hall meetings and engaging with stakeholders privately.
The current document introduced the acronym TEAMS, which outlines goals for economic development in transportation, technology and tourism; education and the environment; agriculture; manufacturing and medicine; and “small business and sovereign nation success”.
However, Inscore said, a lot of people don't understand the TEAMS acronym.
"They don't realize all the work that's been done," he said. "They haven't analyzed it and said, 'Let's put this to work.' Here we are five years later and we're going to do it again. At some point in time we should just stop producing documents and start making commitments for long-term development in our community."
As Crescent City and Del Norte County begin to update the CEDS this year, one task would be reaching out to local tribes, City Manager Eric Wier said. During the previous process, the tribes decided against being partnering agencies with the city, county and harbor, though their input was included as stakeholders.
“A lot of times they have their own CEDS document in which they invite us to be stakeholders,” Wier told the Wild Rivers Outpost on Thursday. “They’re stakeholders, they have a vision and the two documents are not done in a vacuum, [they’re] comprehensive of the entire region. One way or another we definitely want tribal involvement and partnership.”
The 2019-2024 CEDS is also the strategy the newly resurrected Tri-Agency Economic Development Authority works from. However, while the CEDS lists alternative energy, including wind, as a potential economic opportunity, the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a Tri-Agency joint powers agreement that restricts the agency’s involvement in offshore wind energy development.
While he said the Tri-Agency and CEDS should work together, Inscore pointed out that the CEDS is not dependent on what the Tri-Agency does. On Tuesday, he told supervisors that if renewable energy is mentioned in the CEDS it may be in conflict with the Tri-Agency.
However, on Thursday, Inscore told the Outpost that offshore wind energy is a long way off for Del Norte County.
“My concern is our respective agencies have not done a bang-up job of implementing the CEDS we have in existence and have had for the last five years,” he said. “The question then becomes, ‘What do you do with it?’”
Wier pointed out that Crescent City, Del Norte County and the Harbor District adopted the CEDS right before the COVID-19 pandemic, which “completely changed everything.”
During Monday’s City Council meeting, Ashley Taylor, the city’s economic development and recreation director, said the current CEDS is outdated.
“It happened before COVID and so there are a lot of priorities that don’t really reflect the way things currently are in the county,” she said. “I would imagine there are quite a few things that need to get updated. I don’t have anything specific to bring up here, but I think there are going to be a lot of things that are needed [for us] to come together to talk about.”
As for the Downtown Master Plan, Wier called it the next frontier that will take into consideration zoning and densities, potential businesses, the street scape and architectual standards.
Most communities have downtown-specific plans, Wier said. He noted that Crescent City does have a Business Improvement District with a “basic area” of Front to 5th streets and from U.S. 101 to G Street. A downtown-specific master plan could help the city create a sense of connection and context that incorporates changes to Beachfront Park and the new gateway at U.S. 101’s S curves paid for by the $3 million Clean California grant, Wier said.
If awarded the grants, Crescent City will receive $40,000 in EDA funding for the CEDS and would need to provide a $10,000 in-kind match that would be split among the other participating agencies.
If awarded a grant for the Downtown Master Plan, the EDA would contribute $160,000 and Crescent City would be responsible for $10,000 in-kind staff time and a $30,000 monetary contribution.
According to Wier, the city has $30,000 in American Rescue Plan Act dollars in the 2023-24 budget for economic development.