RDA fields questions on blight plan

Public hearing still to be scheduled
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Leader Photo by Tim Ryan RDA Vice Chairman Dave Kerber, right, answers a resident’s questions during an open house on the RDA’s plan for a recently established blight elimination district Tuesday at City Hall.

Nearly three dozen people turned out Tuesday for an open house on the Shawano Redevelopment Authority’s project plan for addressing blighted properties in a recently established blight elimination district.

The RDA had expected to have a public hearing and approval of its project plan last month before questions and concerns raised by property owners sent the authority back to square one in terms of public outreach.

Tuesday’s open house was aimed at giving residents an opportunity to get their questions answered in one-on-one conversations with RDA officials.

“I hope that’s what’s happening here tonight. That was the goal,” RDA Chair Amanda Sheppard said.

Visitor reviews were mixed, however.

“I was a little disappointed in it,” Mary Bohm said. “I thought it would be a back-and-forth, give-and-take kind of meeting.”

Jim Oberstein said the open house was a good start, but “I wish we could follow up with the opportunity to ask questions back and forth. That’s what I thought tonight was going to be about.”

Judy Oberstein said she had hoped for a roundtable discussion.

“This doesn’t quite make it comfortable enough to sit and really engage in a good conversation when you’re standing like this,” she said.

Sheppard said people would get the opportunity for back-and-forth dialogue at the public hearing.

Other residents said they were pleased with the information they got Tuesday.

“We did get our questions answered and we’re very positive and we’re hoping the city can keep moving forward even though it may be a slow process,” Cindy Van Belkom said.

Sandra King came to the open house with concerns about being in the blight district even though her property is not deemed blighted.

“They assured me now that they’re just going to leave me alone,” she said.

John Baird came to learn whether there were grants or other financial assistance for improvements to his property.

“They’re more for commercial properties, but I’m in a commercial area, so they’re going to let me know if something’s available,” he said. “I would love to do a concrete driveway rather than my bricks, because every 10 or 15 years those bricks break down and they’re blighted, so it’s a never ending battle.”

Baird said she was resigned to being in the district and was taking a wait-and-see approach to how well the district is supervised.

He said property owners should be given plenty of time to make improvements.

“Don’t push. I think that’s a great strategy,” he said.

Mayor Jeanne Cronce said the questions she was hearing Tuesday were similar to those asked at recent Common Council meetings, but with an opportunity for people to get a further explanation and understanding of the RDA’s priorities and objectives.

RDA Vice Chair Dave Kerber said the public hearing would go into more detailed nuts and bolts of the project plan and identify the properties the RDA considers priorities.

“The public hearing is where we will lay out our plan of action,” he said.

The plan will then have to go to the Common Council for approval.

The public hearing date was not been set.