From our Castle Coalition Intern, Alex Reynolds:
Freedom in Frenchtown
In 2006, the St. Charles City Council approved a bill that declared 15 acres on the North end of the Frenchtown Historic District as “blighted.” The city hoped that the “blight” status would attract developers to the area through the use of tax breaks.
Two years later, the city has not been able to attract a developer.
Councilman Richard Veit spearheaded the effort to lift the city’s blight designation of parts of his ward, saying that the “blight” label unfairly characterized the area and will not help bring in a developer. Veit feels that business owners are capable of improving their properties on their own. Last week, in a 9-1 vote the city repealed the “blighted” status that had been hanging over residents for two years.
John Hoffman, who owns an antique store and auto repair shop has repaired the brick on his building and plans to add a new roof and landscaping. He says he also plans to clean up the junked vehicles on his lot.Other residents are also doing what they can to fix their properties. Many of these property owners are those who unsuccessfully fought against the “blight” designation in 2006. The “can do” attitude of people like Veit and his constituents is a testament to what can be done without large-scale redevelopment plans. Property owners informed those at city hall that they know what’s best for their community . Municipalities should make note – taking input from property owners and allowing individuals the option to voluntarily improve their properties often avoids the anger and resentment that accompanies the threat of eminent domain.