Jonathan Mallahan, Community & Neighborhood Services Director, No Phone Number Available
Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 11:22 a.m.
A discussion is underway about how best to take advantage of federal, state and local resources to drive neighborhood redevelopment and improvements.
That conversation involves using a federal designation that has significance in accessing Community Development Block Grant funding. The designation also carries with it a potential unintended consequence of attaching a value judgment.
The designation is the term blight.
A community stakeholder group has been meeting to examine the redevelopment needs, the benefits of leveraging federal funding and the challenges associated with the designation. We want to hear your input.
Following is additional information about the conversation to date. A series of questions are included at the end for your feedback.
The Community Development Block Grant Program provides flexible funding options for cities. It allocates funds for three national objectives. Blight elimination or redevelopment is one of them.
Declaring an area or property as blight provides opportunities to use federal, state and local resources for redevelopment and improvement that would otherwise be unavailable to prospective developers. In order to leverage the most effective tools for neighborhood investment and redevelopment, the City is working with a stakeholder group of businesses, community members, and organizations to develop an ordinance outlining the criteria and process for declaring areas of blight.
According to the Community Development Block Grant Program, blighted areas exhibit one of more of these characteristics:
*Blight designations for Spokane will only apply to property specific instances and not to large tracts of land.
The stakeholder group was assembled as a varied and involved group to represent the numerous pieces that contribute to the Spokane community. The group includes financial institutions, business representatives, real estate, Spokane Transit Authority, Community Assembly, and the Downtown Spokane Partnership. City staff and community representatives are working together to formulate a process and criteria of blight.
The group reviewed the proposed ordinance and made a few language modifications to the factors that contribute to blight and the scope of blight designations. The blight definition was placed in the Existing Building and Conservation Code Administrative process through the building official, with the option for the designation to be appealed. The use of this blight tool is meant to be a carrot, not a stick, and the stakeholder group wanted to ensure that was reflected in the ordinance. The use of a spot or property-specific designation is the focus of the blight ordinance in Spokane Municipal Code Chapter 17F.070 Existing Building and Conservation Code, but there is the option for an area designation through the Community Renewal Law at the state level. The ordinance was designed to include structures and properties to ensure the use of the tool on hazardous buildings and hazardous soils. The group decided on a consensus basis to move the proposed ordinance through the public process for adoption.
A representative of Umpqua Bank addressed the financial and lending concerns of the group. The blight designation is considered a display of the city's interest in redevelopment of a property. The blight designation will help, not hurt, you with the bank if the borrower has strength and the neighborhood and the city has a way of dealing with the blight. The blight conditions exist whether or not there is a designation. The elements of a blight ordinance were discussed and the group decided to move forward with combining the substandard building definition and the blight designation tool in the Spokane Municipal Code Chapter 17F.070 Existing Building and Conservation Code.
The purpose of the second stakeholder meeting was to learn how other communities have used this redevelopment tool, including Shoreline, Wash., Vancouver, Wash., and Caldwell, Idaho. The Washington State Community Renewal Law Powers were outlined to discuss the zoning changes, private partnerships, infrastructure and impacts, and incentives. Based on examples from other communities and the discussions of the group, the stakeholders were tasked with development of a criteria and process for blight in Spokane. That feedback will be used to develop the framework of a blight ordinance for Spokane.
The project was introduced as a new redevelopment tool that enabled by Community Development Block Grant funding. Adopting a blight ordinance would develop criteria and process for blight designation. Redevelopment activities can take many forms, such as a small business loan to relocate a business to the blighted area or the rehabilitation of an historic building.
The blight designation can be used to address residential and commercial properties. The Community Renewal Law provides a process for designating blight on a spot or area basis.
Caldwell, Idaho is a suburb of Boise that used the Community Development Block Grant blight tool to create a community renewal area named the City Center Plan. The blight designation was largely defined by the inadequate and deteriorated state of the public improvements. A study identified 6,578 linear feet of substandard sidewalk, 1,910 linear feet of no sidewalk, 3,039 feet of substandard curb and gutter, inadequate lighting, 35 street corners that did not meet American Disability Act requirements, substandard buildings, insufficient water access, poor parking options, and unstable or dangerous conditions. Caldwell used the Community Development Block Grant blight tool to improve infrastructure, improve safety and rehabilitate a historic train depot.
Shoreline, Wash. developed a Community Renewal Plan for the Aurora Square Community Renewal Area. Aurora Square Shopping Center was built in 1967 and has been renovated since. The Aurora Square area was characterized as old with obsolete buildings, defective or inadequate street layout and faulty lot layout, excessive land coverage, and diversity of ownership. Shoreline created the Aurora Square Community Renewal Plan to use the blight redevelopment tools to finance building and infrastructure improvements, purchase property to resell, and provide a property tax exemption to encourage multifamily housing. Eminent domain was identified as a last resort for the redevelopment. The City of Shoreline emphasizes a private-public partnership to address conditions that specifically contribute to blight.
How should blight be characterized in Spokane?
What type of scope should this ordinance include?
What elements could encompass potential criteria for a blight designation?
What should the decision process be?
Provide feedback to these questions in the comment section below.