Explaining ‘blight’ in reference to Meeker’s Urban Renewal Authority

MEEKER | EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part two of a series that addresses some of the most common question regarding a potential Urban Renewal Authority for the Town of Meeker.
Below are a few more of the most common questions regarding a URA, and brief responses:
1. What does the word “blight” mean in regards to a URA? – When the economy is slow, business owners, property owners and the municipality itself are often left shorthanded in their ability to make investments for necessary activities including building and property maintenance, building renovations, and public improvements (streets, sidewalks, etc). When left unaddressed, these deferred improvements make it increasingly difficult for a community to attract investment, and the economic downturn becomes a self-perpetuating condition. The State of Colorado defines these deferred improvements generally as “blight,” and there are eleven specific criteria that the State uses. The list includes items such as “deteriorating structure” (facade, roof, foundation, etc.); “inadequate street layout” (deficiencies in streets, ingress/egress, unsafe curb cuts, parking conditions, etc.); “deterioration of site or other improvements” (damaged buildings – including signage, trash, etc.); “environmental contamination,” and “inadequate public improvements” (degraded, or missing curbs and sidewalks, degraded or missing pavement within the Town, lack of street lighting, etc).
“Blight” does not necessarily mean an inner-city urban environment. Even rural communities face challenges with streets, sidewalks, and aging properties. A URA creates a funding mechanism to help the Town and property owners invest and overcome these challenges, without raising taxes.
2. How does a URA address blight? – Deferred improvements are the outward symptom of the underlying condition of a sluggish economy. If the economy were diversified and strong, private sector investment would already be flowing freely into the Town. But because that investment is not flowing, it is the responsibility of the public sector to roll up its sleeves and assist in a responsible manner. The URA will have the greatest impact if it invests in catalytic projects that leverage private-sector partners to create new demand for services and visitation within the community. This approach treats the cause, in addition to symptoms, rather than focusing on the symptoms alone.
3. Will my property be stigmatized if it is within the redevelopment area? – No. Being located within a redevelopment area, which would be a sub-section of the municipal boundaries, will not negatively impact a property, nor the property owner’s ability to sell the property if they were interested in doing such. It is not a “stigmatizing” condition. If anything, being located within a redevelopment area is a positive thing, because it allows property owners to potentially utilize URA funds to help pay for improvements, rather than having to fund improvements all on their own.
4. Will tourists avoid Meeker if it has a URA/ a redevelopment area? – No. Do tourists avoid visiting the City of Boulder or Colorado Springs specifically because they have established URAs? If anything, URAs have improved tourism in many Colorado communities because the URAs have helped fund the projects that tourists visit when they come.
5. If the Meeker Adventure Center is a great idea, why does it need a URA? – The Meeker Adventure Center is designed to be a catalyst for the local economy, or in other words, it will create economic momentum to help attract future investment and projects. But it is a challenging project, and it needs a public-private partnership to get off the ground. Think of it as a rocket engine. The rocket has great potential to generate a tremendous amount of power, but without a spark, it will sit on the ground. The URA is a vehicle to provide the economic “spark” to help jumpstart projects that are beneficial to the community.
6. How much public investment is necessary? – In total, it is anticipated that the total public investment for the project will be approximately 20 percent of the project cost, or less. Estimated project costs are approximately $10M, meaning that $8M will be coming from outside investment. The goal is that $2M or less would be provided by the local public sector.
For a more in depth discussion, please attend the upcoming public hearing on Feb. 21 at 7 p.m., or contact the town’s economic development consultants, Better City at 801-332-9006.