Public hearing Thursday focuses on RDA plan

City: Session is not to discuss boundaries
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City officials will hold a public hearing Thursday on the Redevelopment Authority’s action plan for dealing with properties in Shawano considered blighted.

There are 391 properties within the boundaries of the recently established RDA district. Just over half of them are considered blighted or in need of redevelopment.

The proposed RDA project plan, which still needs to go to the Common Council for approval, also identified 32 properties in 13 areas of the city as priorities. Most of those are centered in the downtown area, primarily along Main Street.

The public hearing at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 127 S. Sawyer St., will address the RDA project plan but not the boundaries of the district, City Administrator Brian Knapp said.

“The district has been established by the RDA,” Knapp said. “(The hearing) is not about whether a property is blighted and should be included. It’s about addressing the project plan.”

Knapp said he continues to get calls from property owners who have been notified they are within the RDA district sharing their questions and concerns.

Chief among those concerns is the RDA’s power to invoke eminent domain and take matters to court if necessary.

But officials say they are hoping for cooperation from owners to address areas of blight within the district and to either provide or direct them to resources available to help them make improvements to their properties.

According to the RDA project plan, the authority’s primary objectives are to “encourage economic development, promote historic preservation, and enhance quality of life for all residents and visitors.”

The plan would also “encourage property owners to remodel, restore or renovate structures in the Redevelopment District.”

The plan includes a list of resources and assistance the RDA can provide for property owners, largely through the city’s Tax Incremental Finance districts, such as a variety of federal, state and local home improvement and facade grants, low-interest loans and loans from the city’s and county’s revolving loan funds, brownfield grants for properties that could be environmentally contaminated, and additional financial assistance from the Department of Natural Resources and Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Blighted conditions described in the RDA project plan include windows in poor condition, peeling paint, exposed wood, rusted metal, boarded-up storefronts and bricked up windows, broken awnings, cracked and crumbling facades, abandoned signage, and outdoor dumping of garbage and debris.

Under state law, a municipality can designate a blight redevelopment district if at least 50 percent of the property within the proposed district is blighted, which means “a predominance of structures, buildings, or improvements that are dilapidated, deteriorated, obsolete, or conditions that are detrimental to public health and safety.”

Shawano’s RDA district roughly follows the contours of TIF districts already designated along Main Street from the Wolf River bridge on the north to Wescott Avenue on the south, and along Green Bay Street from Main Street on the west to Rusch Road on the east.

It slightly expands those TIF districts, however, to include some surrounding properties.