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RDA IS HOT TOPIC IN BOUNTIFUL DEBATE

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The operation of the city's redevelopment agency and its recent decision to support construction of a downtown shopping and entertainment center dominated a candidate question-and-answer session Thursday.

The meeting, sponsored by the Davis County League of Women Voters, gave residents a chance to hear opinions of candidates seeking the mayor's post and two council seats.George Burbidge and Bob Linnell are running for mayor. Leslie T. Foy, Renee J. Coon, Arnell Heaps and Roger R. Winslow are running for the council.

Meg Mayer, a league representative asked questions ranging from opinions on a pressurized natural gas pipeline running through the community to a controversial downtown redevelopment project. Residents also asked questions, many about the redevelopment agency and economic development.

Burbidge, a construction project supervisor, said the proposed downtown project will be the "final nail in the coffin" for Bountiful economic development. He said that the city has created fragmented centers of development at Five Points Mall, Main Street, Colonial Square and JC Penney.

Linnell, a former city councilman and RDA member, said that when used judiciously, redevelopment agencies are a good thing. He said projects such as the Shipley Building and Gateway Park would have been impossible without the RDA.

Both Linnell and Burbidge said they want to create an RDA advisory panel. They also said they would be willing to ask state lawmakers to change Utah law to allow unelected residents to serve on the RDA board.

Coon said she was concerned about the proposed downtown project because residents were not involved enough. She said she supports phasing out the RDA, something which is already scheduled.

"Their decision I don't believe in," she said.

Foy said he doesn't see a lot of community support for the project. He said he believes projects like the downtown proposal should be made a ballot issue.

Winslow said the most recent RDA project approval was "ill-conceived" and he, too, predicted its eventual failure because developers are not likely to get 80 percent of the space filled by February as required by an RDA agreement.

Heaps, a private developer, said the RDA is a "good idea," but he predicted the downtown project's eventual failure, giving the same reason as Winslow.