MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

November 25, 2012

Blight decision coming soon

Urban Renewal determination needed before establishing renewal plan

By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Urban Renewal Authority members saw more evidence this week that could be used to make a determination blight exists within an area targeted for redevelopment.

Their determination could come as early as next month, when the authority meets in December. Any declaration is subject to City Council approval, which would be needed before the authority could move forward by establishing an urban renewal plan.

State law requires a finding that a proposed project area is blighted and constitutes a threat to the community before reclamation and rehabilitation projects can be undertaken. Administrators have been presenting evidence since September that shows development within the area has declined or stagnated during the past several decades.

The area targeted for urban renewal is bounded by Chicago and 11th streets on the east and west and Shawnee Bypass and Talladega Street on the north and south. It includes a few commercial properties — primarily along West Shawnee Bypass — and a sparsely populated residential area.

“Not every property within the area has to be blighted — it’s an area that is targeted,” City Attorney Roy Tucker said Wednesday during his second overview of the targeted area. “What we are looking for is overgrowth and a lack of development — aerial maps show how this area has stagnated during the past few decades.”

Tucker’s presentation included photographs of several overgrown lots, illegal dump sites, dilapidated or condemned structures, and other homes where code violations were found. There are, however, some well-kept homes within the targeted area, which caused some concern for authority members.

Chairman Darrell Russell asked about the fate of those property owners — whether they might be displaced if a declaration of blight is approved. Tucker said those concerns would be addressed in an urban renewal plan, which would follow a feasibility study conducted after a declaration is made.

City Manager Greg Buckley said while the area targeted for urban renewal was selected primarily for its value for commercial development, much of it would be suitable for transitional development. Buckley said that could include residential development, but the possibility of buy-outs was not precluded.

While the evidence presented during the authority’s past two meetings suggests a declaration of blight is imminent, Tucker said more information is needed to complete the picture.

For example, Tucker said he has questions about whether some fire hydrants within the area are functional. Other questions to which Tucker plans to provide answers when the authority meets in December include title issues and tax liens that may have been filed against properties located within the area.

The Urban Renewal Authority regularly meets at 10 a.m. on the third Wednesday of each month.



Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.