By Wally Kennedy

wkennedy@joplinglobe.com

The Joplin City Council voted Monday night to significantly expand the size of an area termed blighted.

While the designation might sound like the area is being blackballed, officials say that it is a necessary step in offering tax breaks aimed at encouraging redevelopment.

The size of the area, the Downtown Mixed Use Redevelopment District, was increased from 14 blocks to approximately 69 blocks. The council vote was unanimous.

Richard Largent, city planner, said there are two or three pending redevelopment projects that likely will happen now that the developers can benefit from the breaks on the real-estate taxes on improvements to the properties.

Largent said the tax breaks would be 100 percent for 10 years and 50 percent for 15 years.

The council adopted an emergency ordinance to provide an immediate tax break to the developers. Largent said he could not disclose information about the projects at this time.

The blighted area downtown would be expanded to include an area south of B Street to 15th Street between Wall and Pennsylvania avenues, and include a parcel between the old Broadway viaduct and Seventh Street between Pennsylvania Avenue and the Kansas City Southern Railroad.

The historic Union Depot at Second and Main streets is in the expanded redevelopment district. Also in the expanded district is the former Thomas Fruit Co., building near East Seventh Street and Grand Avenue.

An area is considered blighted under Missouri law if “because of age, obsolescence, inadequate or outmoded design or physical deterioration, the property has become an economic and social liability, and that such conditions are conducive to crime or inability to generate reasonable taxes.”

Largent said the expansion has been under discussion for some time, and it is possible the district could be expanded again in the future.

During the council’s informal session, a consensus was reached among council members to not put proposed changes to the city charter before voters in November. To do that would cost the city approximately $30,000, according to City Clerk Barbara Hogelin. By waiting for the elections in February or April, the city could significantly reduce its election costs. The council did not choose a date for the election.

The council heard from Dan Stanley who represented the board of directors of the Joplin Humane Society in its request to obtain land that is closer to Highway 171 near the Joplin Regional Airport. The council has offered land near the airport for the planned construction of a $5.3 million animal shelter, but the land that has been offered does not have frontage on Highway 171.

Stanley said increasing the shelter’s visibility along Highway 171 could significantly improve the adoption rate of animals. In 2006, the shelter took in 9,600 dogs and cats from 18 communities. Of that number, 71 percent or 6,810 animals were killed, 20 percent were adopted out, and 8 percent were returned to their owners.

The council took the request under advisement.





Incentive

Richard Largent, city planner, said the proposed tax-break authority is an incentive to “invest in the downtown.’’

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