Council approves updated blight study

Kristen Kotz

Changes will help city determine available financing

The city of Kent spent $14,000 to have Leighty and Snider, Inc., a community economic development consulting company based in Yellow Springs, update a study on blight in the area in July. The study was last updated in 2005 and the new study found there had been no real change with regards to blight.

Gary Locke, director of community development, said this was done to help the city determine how much money is available for the Fairmount Properties project, which is geared toward downtown revitalization, and because of changes to the Ohio Revised Code.

Blight refers to deteriorated buildings or properties that are not in good condition that exhibit one or more structural deficits such as code violations or deteriorating exteriors, Locke said. A specific outline of the definition of blight can be found in Section 1.08 of the Ohio Revised Code.

In 2007, the Ohio State Legislature changed the definition of blight. Blight is now assessed based on parcels of land instead of individual buildings.

“We had to go back and recheck (the study) buildings,” Locke said. “We also had to go back and see if the met the new definition (of blight).”

The study looked at 35 parcels of land and 17 principal buildings. Of the 17 buildings studied, 16 of them were determined to still meet the new definition of blight. The area had previously been declared blighted, but the study was necessary to see if it still met the state’s updated definition.

Some of the buildings the study found to meet the new definition of blight were: the old hotel at 172 E. Main St., the fire-damaged diner located at 205 S. Water St. and residential structures located at 129, 131 and 133 E. College St.

The study received final approval from the city council at the meeting on Wednesday. Locke said the adoption of the study as ordinance will result in several buildings being torn down. He said the first building to come down will be the old diner, which will probably be torn down sometime in October or November.

“The whole purpose of doing a blight study is that it puts the city into position to take advantage of different funding programs to help facilitate redevelopment,” Locke said. “It also gives the city the ability in certain cases to utilize eminent domain. In the event that a piece of property needs to be acquired for a project, it puts us into position to be able to do that.”

Ward 1 councilman Garret Ferrara said he thinks the council voted to adopt the study because of the economic incentives.

“I think the issue is sources for funding,” he said. “You have to prove the area is blighted to get the money.”

The blight study also allows the city to see how much tax increment financing is available for the city to use. This type of financing is money that comes from the new property tax values after improvements are made to a property.

For example, if the property tax value increased from $10 to $20 after improvements, the $10 increase becomes available for the city to use to pay for the construction of public improvements such as a parking facility, Locke said.

Ferrara said he thinks residents will be happy that the old diner will be torn down because it reflects poorly on downtown Kent.

“I think people like to see progress,” he said. “This is the first step towards redevelopment in the downtown area.”

Contact public affairs reporter Kristen Kotz at [email protected].