As Millcreek looks to redevelop more than 200 acres for a proposed city center, some residents are rushing to spruce up their properties out of fear they could be pushed out of their homes to make way for the new development.
Property owners are repairing broken fences, painting over graffiti and making other renovations before December when Millcreek officials plan to revisit a recent study that examined blight in the area. Residents worry that the city could condemn their property, then take the land through eminent domain, which has some property owners gearing up for a legal battle.
Millcreek officials want to build a city center in the hopes of spurring economic development and new housing in Utah’s 10th-largest city. The project would help Millcreek prepare for anticipated growth as Utah’s population swells. It also would add new homes to help address the state’s housing shortage, Mayor Jeff Silvestrini said.
Silvestrini also said that as envisioned, the redeveloped zone would be a gathering space with restaurants, shops, homes and public amenities that will celebrate Millcreek’s heritage.
“By putting growth and density in areas where we can tolerate it, in areas that need to be redeveloped, we hopefully will be able to preserve the great neighborhoods we have in Millcreek,” he said.
The proposed project would run along 3300 South between 1300 East and Highland Drive, near the Brickyard area. There’s currently a mix of homes, businesses and abandoned buildings in the area.
In September, the city commissioned a study that concluded that a majority of the area is rundown with higher than normal police calls. Yet, Silvestrini said the city has no plans to push people out of their homes.
“We do not plan on taking people out of their homes and should that circumstance ever arise, we would be more than fair with people,” Silvestrini said.
Property owners within the original boundaries of the study aren’t taking any chances, however. They have hired an attorney who says they have taken offense that they properties have been deemed “blighted” over insignificant issues like peeling paint, cracked sidewalks and driveways, and other common concerns.
“Some properties have even been deemed as blighted for not having a sidewalk or curb and gutter even though there is nothing wrong with their houses,” said the attorney, Paxton Guymon, who is representing about 18 property owners.
The study’s conclusion could allow the city to exercise eminent domain, a legal power that allows governments to move property owners who are blocking a construction project if 80 percent of neighbors in a residential area are in support of the project, or with the support of 75 percent of property owners in a commercial area.
If the city approves the study, Guymon said his clients may file a lawsuit against Millcreek to determine the constitutionality of the city’s powers.
The city already has reduced the area that the study covers from 164 acres to about half of that — cutting out some properties — since residents raised their concerns at a November 13 meeting.
A group of residents launched an online campaign advising 198 property owners make repairs and submit evidence of their work to the city by Dec. 5.
City officials will decide whether they want officially label neighborhoods as blighted in a Dec. 17 meeting.