Archive for Thursday, October 18, 2007

Revitalization shouldn’t mean condemnation

October 18, 2007

I personally don't have a problem with beautifying the downtown area to make it more attractive for new business. I do have a problem with the word revitalization as it is a catch word that government uses to disguise condemnation.

Having seen first hand revitalization through my friendship with a business owner in Iowa, I can tell you it isn't very pretty. The city usually starts out with cute little sidewalks, greenery, parks and neat lighting. Then after it's done, the town leaders sit back in their ivory towers and look out the windows and lament on how bad the buildings and houses look in town so they then decide that the property owners need to spruce up their property to match the beautiful revitalization.

Before long, the city begins to see eyesores everywhere they look. So naturally, they decide some of these buildings and houses just have to go. So they send the owner a nice little letter telling them they will have to sell or face condemnation. This is a government word meaning "to steal ones property against your will."

Now steal is a pretty harsh word, but my friend in Iowa paid taxes on his building tax valued at $250,000. When the city came in to buy it they tried to lowball him with a $175,000 offer. They called it reasonable. I called it theft. Some, faced with no money to fight it in court, take less and run.

Revitalization doesn't happen overnight. For several years, my friend's business declined because the majority of his customer base in the area of revitalization sold out. Other customers who read the daily reports of this grandiose plan in the paper assumed that he wasn't in business anymore so the street traffic dried up. In order to keep his business afloat and to pay his bills, he used up his life savings to maintain his business because when properties are condemned the city won't let you sell. Besides, who would want to buy a condemned building?

Those buildings that pass the eye test might be allowed to stay. Those that don't will be leveled so some developer in cahoots with the city can build a fancy building that is perceived to be more desirable. While ridding the town of those unsightly blemishes the city will lose the tax money they generate as they will give tax-free status for several years to attract the new business. When the city coffers get low because the tax base has been depleted, guess what? Tax increases for property owners.

Driving through downtown De Soto I didn't need much imagination to pick likely targets for "revitalization." I suggest downtown De Soto business and property owners in the designated area attend these public meetings and ask hard questions about the city's long-range plans to find out if this is beautification or revitalization.

Bill Trimble

De Soto

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