In a unanimous vote, the Blair Planning Commission recommended to the city council that two designated areas — known as the South Highway 30 Area and Blair Core Area — be declared blight and substandard.
The decision came after a public hearing Tuesday in which Jeff Ray with JEO Consulting Inc. presented the findings of a Blight and Substandard Study, which was completed in February.
Per the state's redevelopment law, the Blair City Council asked the planning commission to review the study and make a recommendation.
“(The designation) doesn't mean anyone's property has tags on it with the bank or the mortgage or anything like that,” Ray said. “There are no signs that go up that say you're now entering blight and substandard area. It only means that you're able to use tax increment financing in this area.”
The area studied was approximately the southern two-thirds of Blair, including four different areas that were previously designated blight and substandard as well as new areas, Ray said. The former Dana College campus was not included in the study. The campus was designated blight and substandard in 2018.
However, there is a limitation, Ray said. Only 35 percent of the corporate area can have the designation.
“We kind of had to back into that and we were not able to delineate the entire area out,” he said.
Following the study, Ray recommended two areas to be designated blight and substandard.
The South Highway 30 Area included in the study incorporates properties and businesses from Butler Street south to the roundabout. The Blair Core Area includes all of downtown as well as areas south and east.
“Overall, we did find that there was significant enough criteria identified in both districts,” Ray said. “That they do meet the state statute to be declared blighted and substandard.”
According to the study, the South Highway 30 Area met nine of the 12 blighted conditions, which include unsanitary or unsafe conditions, deterioration of site, obsolete platting, the existence of conditions which endanger life or property and conditions that are detrimental to public health and safety.
It also met three of four criteria for the substandard designation, which included age of structures, inadequate provision for ventilation and sanitation and other substandard conditions.
The Blair Core Area also met nine of the 12 blighted criteria and all four substandard criteria.
A blight and substandard designation enables the city to use Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to help redevelop the areas.
Commission member Darrel Boesiger was concerned about the large area included in the designation.
“Here, we're just doing the whole city and it just bothers me that we're calling it all blighted and then all of a sudden all the builders can come in and get all the tax breaks,” he said. “That's what bothers me about a study like this. I'm not saying it's not right because I think they met the criteria. I just don't like it.”
Ray said there were already three different blight studies that covered a majority of the area included in the new study.
“This supersedes that,” he said. “Basically, we looked at it and said are those criteria still present. You have some that are going away as well as adding to it. These aren't all new.”
The study will now go before the Blair City Council for public hearing at its meeting Tuesday.