Future of RDA in limbo after council vote

Group waits on council feedback for new map

The Shawano Redevelopment Authority is in a holding pattern after the Common Council’s vote Wednesday to send a proposed blight district map back to the RDA for reconsideration.

City Administrator Brian Knapp said the RDA would be looking for guidance from the council on what district boundaries would be acceptable before moving forward.

“At this point, it’s difficult to justify spending any more time and money on it until the RDA understands what the council will accept,” Knapp said.

The city has spent about $19,000 so far, including $15,000 in consulting fees and $4,000 to send out notifications via registered mail to property owners.

Knapp said it could cost an additional $9,000 in consulting fees to do a complete re-evaluation of the district boundaries, plus the cost of sending out new certified notifications, for a total of about $12,000 to $13,000.

The council heard from more than a dozen property owners at Wednesday’s meeting upset that their properties were included in the district.

Knapp said a redrawn district map will likely be greeted with the same objections.

“It’s very difficult to create a district that doesn’t impact or won’t include many of the same individual properties,” he said.

Under state law, a municipality can designated 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 proposed RDA district roughly follows the contours of Tax Incremental Finance districts already designated along Main and Green Bay streets.

The district encompasses 391 properties, just over 50 percent of which are considered blighted, according to the redevelopment plan.

The council Wednesday called for a new boundary map that eliminates properties that have been improved since property assessments were done more than a year ago.

If a new map that includes at least 50 percent of properties considered blighted can’t be approved, it raises the question of whether there is any point in the RDA’s existence.

“That’s a reasonable question,” Knapp said.

In the meantime, however, city staff will meet with RDA consultant Vierbicher to review options, he said.

Assistant City Administrator Eddie Sheppard, who has been working closely with the RDA as part of city support staff, said there is an RDA meeting that had already been scheduled for Thursday.

“We will have the meeting,” he said. “I don’t know what the content will be.”

Sheppard said he would be touching base with council members ahead of that meeting for further feedback on the district boundary map.

The RDA held an informal meeting with council members last month and walked them through the proposed district boundaries and project plan.

According to Sheppard, some of the questions and concerns raised Wednesday had been addressed at that informal meeting.

The new wrinkle that hadn’t previously been addressed was whether a property could get out of the blight district once improvements to the property are made.

Sheppard said the focus of the district map and the resolutions that were before the council Wednesday was to set boundaries for the district, not to label any particular property as blighted.

“We were not able to communicate that as well as we should have,” he said.

Sheppard said the RDA was aware from the start that the term “blighted” would have negative connotations, but the RDA was stuck with the word under state statutes.

“I wish we could have called it something else,” he said.

Statutes also required the RDA to inform property owners of the potential use of eminent domain, even though, Sheppard said, “the goal has never been to take people’s property.”

Sheppard said the district was being created to assist property owners by providing them with or directing them to resources to help them improve their properties.