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Final MRA desig Map - 12-4-12 copy
Map courtesy Silver City Community Development Department
The newly-declared Silver City Metropolitan Redevelopment Area includes all areas enclosed by the purple line. The Big Ditch is to the right, just inside the boundary.

By Dan Roblee
For the Beat

The Silver City Town Council unanimously designated its downtown as a Metropolitan Redevelopment Area Dec. 11, despite concerns that labeling the area ‘blighted’ could have a negative impact on public perceptions. Another touchy term, the description of part of the town as a ‘slum,’ was deleted from an earlier draft of the resolution prior to approval.



“We heard at the last hearings there were concerns about the word ‘slum,’” said consultant Charlie Deans, who helped city planners prepare the resolution. “That part of the [state] statute isn’t part of what we’re doing, so we deleted the wording.”

“Silver City is not a slum, and it never will be,” he added.

The MRA designation is the first step in a process that can eventually allow the town to pursue otherwise illegal joint public-private improvement partnerships, bypass low-income qualifications when applying for Community Development Block Grants, and eventually declare the area a Tax Increment Financing District. A TIF district allows the town to roll property tax-revenue increases, resulting from property appreciation, directly back into the TIF area.

The MRA boundaries encompass the historic downtown area and include parts of the Chihuahua, Silver City and North Addition historic districts.

According to Mayor James Marshall, any stigma associated with the term ‘blight’ was a minor concern compared to the potential benefits of the MRA.

“I have no objection to calling an area blighted that’s blighted,” Marshall said. “If we use our attorney’s phrase from last meeting, there are areas that are ugly, and need help. To just go on as is and continue with our chamber of commerce statements, that’s burying our heads in the sand.”

Councilwoman Cynthia Bettison felt differently about the label, and early in the discussion proposed shrinking the MRA area to exclude as many residences as possible, sparing homeowners any loss of face.

“It’s been my experience in life that perception is reality for 99 percent of people,” Bettison said. “Even if people are told there’s no negative, they might believe there’re negatives down the line. You can’t change perception.”

Her proposal, however, excluded businesses on the College St. corridor and elsewhere, along with the residences. Nick Seibel, Silver City MainStreet Project manager, said that excluding those business areas could have very real consequences.

“College St. and Broadway both have been left out of the streetlights program downtown,” Seibel said. “The MRA may give us tools to accomplish those projects.”  

Marshall pointed out that the reality of a blighted property near a home would be more harmful to the homeowner than any perception resulting from the MRA’s wording.

This argument eventually convinced Bettison, who withdrew her recommendation and joined her colleagues in voting for the resolution, with the original boundaries.

CUTLINE:
Map courtesy Silver City Community Development Department
The newly-declared Silver City Metropolitan Redevelopment Area includes all areas enclosed by the purple line. The Big Ditch is to the right, just inside the boundary.

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