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Grant would help city clean up dilapidated properties

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The City of Delta has learned of a $507,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) that could be matched with $101,400 from the city to acquire and demolish several dilapidated properties in and near downtown Delta.

The grant can be used only for blight remediation -- site acquisition, site assessment, environmental assessment, remediation, demolition, etc.

Staff has already identified five properties that could be prioritized by the city council for acquisition, demolition and site remediation.

At a work session last week, city manager David Torgler explained that because funding is from the federal government, there are certain requirements for use of the funds. One requirement is that property owners must receive notice their property is being considered for acquisition before the grant application is submitted. Another requirement is that the sellers must be willing -- properties cannot be acquired through eminent domain.

Torgler displayed slides of the five properties identified by city staff, including the building that formerly housed West's Home Center at 327 Main Street. The building is in such poor condition it has an assessed value of zero. The land is valued at $38,000.

The long-vacant armory building was also identified for possible acquisition. The goal would be to acquire the site (or sites, depending on funding) and get them ready for redevelopment by a private party. The city could be very specific about what type of development it wants to see on each parcel, Torgler said.

Sheryl Trent, a consultant who worked with the city to develop a strategic plan, pointed out the city could get rid of blight and gain control over the use of the land. If the city has a clear vision of use, it may take some time to sell the property, but often a vacant lot is more attractive than the dilapidated building, she said.

Torgler added that this type of urban renewal project often acts as a catalyst for further development. He displayed photos of several areas in town where private investment has spurred improvements by neighboring property owners.

"This is an opportunity for the city to step up and say we're doing our part to make this a better community," said Mayor pro-tem Ron Austin.

Councilmember Gerald Roberts agreed the grant is a great opportunity -- if in fact the city is able to come up with the matching funds of $101,400. Since he has not seen a draft of the 2017 budget, he said he does not know if that's the case.

At the regular council meeting, a public hearing concerning the CDBG grant was held but no decision was made. That discussion will not take place until the Oct. 18 council meeting and by then budget talks will have begun. The council should also be back at full strength. For the Oct. 4 meeting, Mayor Ed Sisson was out of town and councilmember Bill Raley was ill.

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