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Council looks to aid potentially unsafe land plat

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Members of the Springfield City Council on Dec. 13 heard a resolution that would declare a 7.1-acre swath of land on the northwest and southwest corners of Madison and Kimbrough a blighted area, which would allow property owners to develop the land and receive 100 percent tax abatement for 10 years.

The Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority, a city-appointed committee that considers tax abatement issues for developers of blighted areas, has recommended council adopt the resolution that would benefit BSH Springfield 1 LLC and Bryan Properties, who own the homes in the designated area.

Economic Development Director Mary Lilly Smith said that not all of the properties would need to fall under the state’s definition of blight for the developers to receive the tax incentive, so long as a predominance of the properties are recognized as such.

“Blighted conditions can create an economic and social liability,” Smith said. “Many of these properties are not marketable and have unsafe living conditions.”

She said two-thirds of the homes have asbestos shingles, many have pealing paint, rotten wood and are structurally unsafe.

Smith said that from June 4 to Nov. 4, there were 445 crimes reported in the area, which was another reason council should consider passing the resolution.

Developers are planning to build a mix of residential and commercial properties and will have to go before the Planning and Zoning Committee to change the area’s current residential designation to mixed-use after the first of the year.

“The first step, however, is to designate the area as blighted,” Smith said.

A public hearing on the matter is scheduled for the next council meeting on Jan. 10.

Councilwoman Cindy Rushefsky expressed concern about people who may be living in the properties.

“Given the unsafe living conditions, how are these properties OK to rent? Don’t we have any standards anymore?”

Smith said all of the properties were owned by or were under contact by the developers, and that she believed renters were moving out of the worst properties.

The resolution will receive its second reading on Jan. 10, and the council will have the opportunity to vote on the measure after the public hearing.

For more on the Dec. 13 Springfield City Council meeting, look to the Dec. 20 Springfield Business Journal print edition.        
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