Two years ago, the city of Redmond decided to “walk softly” in getting developers to build sidewalks and other improvements delayed during the recession. That approach worked well, cutting the number of unsatisfied agreements from 65 to 25.
Now the city is stepping up the pressure to get the rest of the projects completed, trying to decide if it should call in bonds or use cash deposits that developers set up to ensure the work would be done.
In some cases, the original developer no longer owns the project, as a result of sale or foreclosure, but the obligation to build improvements wasn’t transferred along with ownership. In cases involving roads, bonds may not be large enough to cover the full cost. Some developments are still owned by the original owner, but he lacks the money to make the improvements.
Redmond is wisely looking at each case individually, seeking an effective way to resolve the problem. In some cases, calling the bonds makes sense. In others the city may need to fund some work and then try to collect from owners when they apply for building permits.
These remnants of the recession need resolution. It’s unfair, and in some cases even a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act, for the sidewalks to remain unbuilt. Incomplete roads can prevent further development that’s needed for a continuing economic recovery. And homeowners shouldn’t have to live with unfinished infrastructure around their residences.
The city shouldn’t hesitate to call the bonds where that’s the best solution to the problem. The bonds exist for exactly the purpose of being sure the improvements get made even if the developer runs into difficulties. The goal, though, is a thriving city and limited taxpayer exposure. If another path satisfies and keeps a developer in business, that’s worth exploring.