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Friday, December 22, 2017

Janesville's Blight - Downtown

As a big fan of Janesville's downtown, I was greatly dismayed when city officials and the city council labeled the area as blighted when they approved the downtown TIF District. At the time unfortunately, I seem to have been the only one in Janesville who objected to the designation for such a well-maintained historic district.

Sure, Janesville's downtown has its share of underappreciated buildings. The old Monterey Hotel is probably the most well-known of those, but I doubt if the downtown area has more than five or six percent blight following the state's legal definition for blight regarding tax increment law. It reads ...

1. “Blighted area" means any of the following: a. An area, including a slum area, in which the structures, buildings or improvements, which by reason of dilapidation, deterioration, age or obsolescence, inadequate provision for ventilation, light, air, sanitation, or open spaces, high density of population and overcrowding, or the existence of conditions which endanger life or property by fire and other causes, or any combination of these factors is conducive to ill health, transmission of disease, infant mortality, juvenile delinquency, or crime, and is detrimental to the public health, safety, morals or welfare.

The blight designation is important because TIF Districts located in a city must have NOT LESS than 50 percent, by area, of the real property within the district designated area.

That means MORE than 50% of Janesville's downtown must be blighted to receive the TIF District designation. However, the blight designation has become severely abused and a matter of opinion among city officials. In other words, they could label Janesville's recently new Festival Foods as blight if nobody is willing to challenge it.

No doubt TIF can be an effective tool for increasing property values, especially for blighted urban properties. However, re-investment and redevelopment was occurring in downtown Janesville well before the city drew a TIF District around it. Fact is, Janesville's downtown TIF District was created with one sole purpose - to capture the expected growth in assessed values to divert revenue away from General Fund purposes.

But again, I stand alone and simply disagree with city officials. They should terminate the TIF District as soon as possible to remove the slum designation ...because Downtown Janesville is NOT a slum.

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