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Last week, Meeker’s Urban Renewal Authority (URA) notified property owners that it is conducting a survey to determine whether their properties meet criteria for designation as “blighted” or “slum.” The affected properties lie generally between Main Street and the river, including the business district and Post Office block. (And by the bye, is it not just a bit ironic that some of the same structures the URA wants to include as blighted are those proud buildings for which we hope to assign historic status?) The purpose of “blighted” designation is to qualify to divert public money to assist in development of an Outdoor Adventure Center. (The wisdom and viability of the Adventure Center are doubtful, but that’s for another discussion.)
The original intent of the state’s URA legislation was to facilitate urban renewal, primarily in cities. Funds were designated to provide public infrastructure, such as streets, lights and sidewalks, during renovation of slums that posed a threat to the public health and safety. The legal framework has since been more widely interpreted to allow use of public funds for all sorts of development schemes.
If Meeker’s URA really does find neighborhoods that meet the strict definition of “blighted,” it seems to me that the Town should use any public monies for the original intent, to provide the public infrastructure to restore those neighborhoods. Those monies should not be used to fund private developments, such as the Outdoor Adventure Center.
Bob Dorsett, MD