, Muskogee, OK

December 7, 2012

Decision should be prompt

— Urban Renewal Authority members could make a determination that blight exists in an area targeted for redevelopment as early as its December meeting.

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 contains a few commercial properties and a number of overgrown lots, illegal dump sites and dilapidated or condemned structures.

The area also contains some nicer homes.

Most who have been through that part of town would have little trouble agreeing that the area is rundown and in need of change. It isn’t hard to see that something must be done.

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.

The declaration of blight starts the process of creating an urban renewal plan that will bring needed change.

This needs to be done, but authority members’ concerns about the well-kept homes in the area are appropriate.

Chairman Darrell Russell asked about the fate of those property owners — whether they might be displaced if a declaration of blight is approved.

The determination needs to be made, but the Urban Renewal Authority must do everything it can to ensure that current owners are treated fairly.

Concern for the owners who have taken good care of their properties in the area should not halt the urban renewal process, but fair alternatives need to be given weight. Buyouts are possible, but alternatives exist and should be given fair consideration.

Again, the determination on blight should be made quickly, and the plan to reshape the area should treat owners fairly.