Blight district anger surprises some officials

Some areas were already designated blighted

The level of public hostility toward a proposed redevelopment district aimed at addressing blighted conditions in Shawano has taken some city staff and the Redevelopment Authority by surprise.

More than a dozen property owners showed up at a Common Council meeting Wednesday to object to the proposed boundaries of the district and what some claimed was the lack of due process for property owners wishing to dispute the “blighted” designation.

“I think that’s part of the problem in our community and in our country today,” Bruce Milavitz said. “We give up our rights unknowingly to the government without any due process, and they just keep getting eroded.”

Realtor Terry Hilgenberg said the public was disappointed with the process, which was viewed rightly or wrongly as unfair.

“Perception is reality for people,” he said.

Concerns were also raised about the powers of eminent domain, the lowering of property values associated with being in a blighted district and the effect on struggling business owners.

“This is a mean-spirited anti-business policy,” Marlin Noffke said.

Most of the properties in the proposed RDA district are already in Tax Incremental Finance Districts 4 and 6 along Main and Green Bay streets, which were designated as blight elimination districts when those TIF’s were created.

City Administrator Brian Knapp said the RDA felt the easiest route would be to “cookie cutter” those areas and properties already in blight elimination TIF districts into the RDA redevelopment district.

He said the RDA didn’t expect controversy over the new district because of those previous designations, which didn’t create this kind of public outcry when they were created.

“They thought, ‘It’s not going to be a big deal,’” he said. “Everybody’s been here already. They’ve been down this road.”

Vierbacher consultant Quasan Shaw told the council Wednesday that denying the RDA boundary map wouldn’t remove the blight designations already established under TIF district 4 and 6.

“Those blight determinations are still in place, with or without this redevelopment district,” he said.