Millcreek Mayor: Redevelopment Project To Move Ahead Without Blight Study
About 200 Millcreek property owners have been living in limbo for the past two months.
They’ve been wondering if their city officials would approve a blight study which had the potential to condemn their properties, giving the city the power to seize them for the sake of a redevelopment project.
On Wednesday, Mayor Jeff Silvestrini sent out an email providing relief to those residents. The email stated that he and the City Council have discussed dropping the blight study from their plans to develop a city center for Millcreek.
The city council will vote Monday on the blight study. Silvestrini expects the council will vote unanimous against using the study.
“The bottom line is there are some valid concerns. We’ve listened to people and we represent them so we are going to represent them in this and decide not to do it,” Silvestrini said Thursday.
The original blight study looked at several neighborhoods over more than 100 acres in the heart of Millcreek.
The study examined crime in the area, and the number of abandoned buildings. It also included several homes with minor problems such as chipped paint or lack of curb and gutter.
The study did not take into account that some of the homes were built without sidewalks and gutters in their designs, said Paxton Guymon, the attorney who represented 18 property owners affected by the study.
“(The study) did not meet the statutory criteria for a blight finding to be valid,” he said.
A group of property owners organized to fight the blight study and started a campaign called the Millcreek Land Grab.
The proposed city center will continue developing as a community reinvestment area. It will allow Millcreek to finance the project using money raised by tax increments. The project will be driven by private developers, Silvestrini said.
Without the study, the city will not be able to exercise eminent domain, a legal power used by governments to acquire private property, Silvestrini added. It’s typically used during public projects such as new roads, but passing the study would have allowed Millcreek to use eminent domain for a private development project.
Silvestrini said he only intended to use eminent domain as a last result.
“I hope we don’t have a situation down the road where we regret doing this, but this is what our constituents wanted to do so we are listening to them,” he said.