Information about the Blight Study in Idaho Springs
Over the past few years, the City of Idaho Springs has undertaken a number of planning efforts for the City. In 2012, Downtown Colorado Inc. completed a Downtown Assessment. This was followed in 2017 with an East End Action Plan and a City-wide Comprehensive Plan. In 2018, the City participated in a Design Challenge Workshop with Downtown Colorado Inc. and a Technical Advisory Panel with Urban Land Institute.
Through this time, there was an ongoing discussion about whether or not residents and business owners of the City would benefit from Tax Increment Financing (TIF). TIF financing allows a URA to offer low interest grants or loans by directing future tax revenue increases from a defined area or district towards property owners who are improving property in the Community.
An urban renewal district is one of the ways that TIF can be offered. The City Council has had several work sessions involving experts in this topic, and in October of 2018 the Council directed staff to move forward with hiring a contractor to do a blight study.
A blight study is an independent survey of conditions that exist within a designated area. A blight study is required by Colorado State Statute prior to the formation of any Urban Renewal District. It is necessary to justify whether an Urban Renewal Authority is warranted. There are 11 different criteria that qualify as blight:
1. Slum, deteriorated, or deteriorating structures;
2. Predominance of defective or inadequate street layout;
3. Faulty Lot Layout in relation to size, adequacy, accessibility, or usefulness;
4. Unsanitary or unsafe conditions;
5. Deterioration of site or other improvements;
6. Unusual topography or inadequate public improvements or utilities;
7. Defective or Unusual Conditions of Title rendering the title non marketable;
8. Existence of Conditions that endanger life or property by fire or other causes;
9. Buildings that are unsafe or unhealthy for persons to live or work in because of building code violations, dilapidation, deterioration, defective design, physical construction, or faulty or inadequate facilities;
10. Environmental contamination of buildings or property;
11. Existence of health, safety, or welfare factors requiring high levels of municipal services or substantial physical underutilization or vacancy of sites, buildings, or other improvements.
In order for an area to be considered “blighted,” at least four of these factors must be present in more than 50 percent of the properties.
In January 2019, the City Council hired Principal Land Planning (PLP) to begin a blight study. Two general areas of the City were selected for the study area: the East End and portions of the West End. Community Development Planner Alan Tiefenbach worked with PLP to define what the study areas could be, and these areas were accepted by the Council. As is required by State Statute, notice of the blight study was mailed to every property owner within the blight study area. A community meeting was held on March 26 with 19 people in attendance.
PLP finished the first part of the blight study in April of this year, and the Council directed PLP to add several other areas to the study. On June 10th, 2019, the Blight Study as amended was presented to City Council. At that meeting, City Council directed Staff to contact a Lawyer specializing in Urban Renewal Authorities and Districts to further explore how TIF financing might be made available to property owners in the event an urban renewal district is formed.
PLEASE NOTE: As the City is a statutory City in Colorado, it already has the powers of eminent domain and condemnation, however the City does not have the ability to offer TIF financing to property owners. Eminent domain is also a tool that can be used by an URA, however, this is not being considered in the City of Idaho Springs. The City’s intent with establishing an Urban Renewal Authority is to offer low interest loans or grants to property owners who want to make improvements to their properties. This will be completely voluntary, and property owners will not be required to apply for TIF funding.
Here is a link to the blight study that was presented to City Council:
Questions about this process can be directed to City Staff or City Council. There will be additional opportunities for Public Input in this process as City Council considers whether or not to start an Urban Renewal Authority in the City.