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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Fools in St. Charles...

..took the "blight" designation literally. Can you believe it?

A portion of historic downtown St. Charles known as Frenchtown was declared "blighted" a while back in order to encourage redevelopment of one of the last portions of the core to feature some vacant lots and underutilized buildings.

Well, it is blighted no longer thanks to the actions of the St. Charles City Council.

Councilman Richard Veit, Ward 1, sponsored the bill to repeal the designation because he said it unfairly punished the businesses in the area. And in two years, no developer has come forward with a redevelopment plan, he said.Most of the council members agreed with him, voting 9-1 in favor of repealing the blighting ordinance. Councilman Dave Beckering, Ward 7, voted against the move, suggesting that Veit wait longer to discuss the issue with more people.

But why remove a developmental tool just because no one took the bait in two years?

Velt "said he had heard from a real estate agent who was concerned that she might have to disclose that a home she was selling was near a blighted area. [Emphasis mine]"

Will someone please tell this real estate agent that West County is blighted too and that homes around the West County Mall seem to sell just fine amidst the decay at Manchester and 270?

TIFs are abused in this state worse than methamphetamines--and Missouri's just about the capital of that, too. Ideally, the "blight" label would be applied only when truly applicable--that is, when the market in an area has failed and infrastructure needs public/private reinvestment. After all, TIFs are designed with bringing improvements to infrastructure in mind.

A greater point is that a private developer using the blight label for eminent domain should be held more accountable to the public that is indirectly subsidizing the development. An $11 million TIF (someone correct me if I'm wrong) for Loughborough Commons is simply ludicrous--and certainly the blight label could be contested there, in middle class Carondelet and Boulevard Heights as well. And, of course, in Loughborough Commons' case, a whole row of decidedly unblighted homes was demolished for a shopping center that didn't even bother to supply a walkway to the west side of the development of which they, ironically, helped lower the property values.

Someone thank Michael Allen for documenting this hit to the built environment.

Here is a row of homes prepped for demo in 2005--most or all, of course, occupied prior to the autocentric shopping center that your tax dollars helped to construct.

Point is, St. Charles, your lack of understanding how blight works may have saved you some ridiculous megaproject, some big box or importation of chain stores on your quaint historic French section and you didn't even know it. Bravo, St. Charles, for not putting one of the last bastions of human-scale urbanism in your county at risk for "redevelopment".

Maybe I'm just too cynical, but can we start calling big boxes "TIF Queens" the way that public assistance recipients and single mothers are dubbed welfare monarchy?


Doug Duckworth said...


The homes demolished for LC had character. But the need for the City to collect sales tax revenue is compelling. Unfortunately, we couldn't even get some "New" Urbanism. Yet I don't think that Eminent Domain can be justified for private projects even if New Urbanism is the replacement.

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