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City to Hold Hearing on Blight Plan

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Faced with last-minute opposition from residents of one neighborhood, Westminster officials have scheduled another community meeting July 6 on its proposal to turn the entire city into a redevelopment zone.

The plan, given initial approval on a 5-0 vote of the City Council on Wednesday night, would designate all 10.2 square miles of the western Orange County community a “blighted” area. The city would then declare it a redevelopment project area, and for the next 30 years would be able to tap the lion’s share of any increase in property tax revenues to pay for more than $260 million in repairs to its aging roads and sewers.

But council members agreed to hold a fifth community meeting to explain the project to residents of a neighborhood near the Westminster Mall when one homeowner presented a petition with 58 signatures opposing the redevelopment designation.

“I don’t want my house in a redevelopment zone, just because of the stigma of that term,” said Charles D’Auria, who began collecting signatures from neighbors in the Chestnut Street area after he learned of the plan at the fourth community meeting June 14.

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D’Auria said he hadn’t realized until then that what the city was calling a revitalization plan involved redevelopment zoning, which he and neighbors fear will harm anyone trying to sell a home.

“Why don’t they give us a two-year plan with specifics,” D’Auria said after the council meeting. “Don’t put a cloud over a neighborhood for 20 to 30 years.”

State redevelopment experts say Westminster and neighboring Stanton are the first cities in the state seeking to declare their towns blighted since 1993, when the law was changed to tighten loopholes and prevent abuses.

In Stanton, more than 100 residents filled the town’s community center Wednesday night, most expressing support for the council’s proposal to designate virtually all of the city a redevelopment zone.

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Stanton’s redevelopment proposal, given initial council approval Wednesday night, emphasizes using additional dollars captured by normal increases in property taxes to maintain and upgrade its aging housing stock.

Residents expressed enthusiasm for loans and grants to help them rehabilitate their homes.

“I’m definitely for this,” said resident Anna Wells. “I think if you get this program going as soon as possible, a lot of us would appreciate it. I just want to know how soon I can sign up.”

In Westminster, city spokesman Mark Brewer said officials hope a meeting for the Chestnut Street neighborhood will alleviate community concerns.

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“We are inviting the whole tract to the meeting,” he said. “The city is very open to input from residents.”

Brewer said D’Auria’s request to exclude the neighborhood’s 70 homes from the redevelopment zone would have to be taken up at the council’s July 12 meeting, when the project is up for a final vote.


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