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DURA plan poised for implementation

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After addressing questions about blight, eminent domain and resources for structural improvements, the Delta City Council officially adopted the Delta Urban Renewal Authority plan.

By state law, an urban renewal authority can only engage in projects designed to improve slum and blight conditions.

That means the Delta Urban Renewal Authority was required to conduct a survey, and to determine that, within a broad geographic area, there were enough qualifying blight conditions to warrant a plan to address those conditions.

That step raised concern among some property owners within the plan boundaries who felt the "blight" designation was not justified and could adversely impact property values.

During a public hearing conducted by the Delta City Council Nov. 21, one business owner said written notice sent to all property owners within the project area caught her totally by surprise. Brenda Holland, who owns commercial property in the 100 block of Grand, said she and neighboring owners have made sizable investments in their properties, and they object to the term "blight."

A homeowner on E. 3rd Street said she has spent the last year trying to improve her house, and she expressed concern the city would try to take it away through eminent domain.

A couple of other property owners simply wanted clarification on whether DURA would provide resources to help them address deficiencies in their commercial and residential properties.

"Yes, the DURA plan makes that possible ... but not right away," said special counsel Carolynne White, who offered a brief overview of urban renewal authorities for those who have not been following the year-long undertaking by the city.

She explained that the goal of an urban renewal authority is to "encourage and catalyze investment by the private sector for the purpose of remedying the blighted conditions."

The blight survey was conducted in a general area, and is not intended to conclude that any one of the properties within that area is in and of itself blighted, she said.

There are 45 urban renewal authorities in the state, and White has worked with many of them. She said she's found that property values often increase when a blight determination has been made "because it's a signal to the marketplace that the government has targeted the area for investment and is willing to work in public/private partnerships with the property owners to try and encourage them to make a greater investment."

She also addressed the use of eminent domain, which is one of the powers granted to urban renewal authorities, but one that's rarely exercised. In the case of DURA, the agreement with the county explicitly states the county will terminate its financial participation if eminent domain is ever exercised.

Although it's doubtful the DURA board would exercise the power of eminent domain, White said that tool can "inspire" people to begin negotiations with the urban renewal authority. Without that power, DURA would basically be operating "with one hand tied behind its back."

In response to another question concerning taxes, White said DURA does not have the power to levy any additional taxes, although property values may increase as a result of DURA activities.

At the conclusion of the public hearing, the Delta City Council approved both the blight conditions survey and the urban renewal plan. Council member Gerald Roberts voted in favor of both resolutions, but said he will consider each proposed project individually. Council member Bill Raley said he had no problem with the conditions survey, but he voted nay on the plan because he doesn't feel the city should put any more money into urban renewal.

Until DURA begins to generate revenue through tax increment financing, the city is loaning the funds DURA needs to function.

The city loaned DURA approximately $23,000 in 2016, $127,400 in 2017, and estimates lending approximately $88,100 in 2018. The loans are expected to be repaid by DURA.

The projects to be implemented within the plan boundaries will be determined by the DURA board, which consists of the five council members plus representatives from three other taxing entities and a mayoral appointee.

One of the initial targets is near the Gunnison River, where DURA is hoping to attract a developer who is willing to invest in and build a hotel.

The large size of the plan map does not lend itself to reproduction here, but it can be found on the city website, www.cityofdelta.net.

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