The city is looking to designate the entire municipality as “an area in need of rehabilitation” to speed up the process to rehabilitate abandoned properties.
Economic development director Ruben Gomez said the designation will allow the city to address vacant and abandoned properties within under a year. He said it takes 18 months to rehabilitate a property by going through the court process to secure possession in areas that are not within a redevelopment zone.
With the designation, the city will be able to use what’s called “spot blight imminent domain” which takes 6-9 months to rehabilitate an abandoned property, said Gomez.
“This particular resolution is to address scattered sites abandoned throughout the city,” Gomez told the council last week.
“At this point it’s just a study,” said John Barree, a planner with Heyer Gruel & Associates. “It will enable the city to go through the shorter process of turning those properties around and getting them to people who are willing to rehabilitate them.”
Some council members expressed concerns about designating the entire city. William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman, worried the designation will create a stigma around the city.
“How do we get over the stigma of designating the entire city in need of rehabilitation?” asked McKoy. He said the properties the city is attempting to rehabilitate may already fall within existing redevelopment zones.
The city has a number of redevelopment zones mostly in the 1st, 4th, and 5th Wards.
McKoy asked whether there are other communities that have used this approach.
“The city of Newark. The entire city is designated as an area in need of rehabilitation,” answered Barree. He said that designation was done around 10 years ago.
The council’s resolution asks the planning board to conduct a review to designate the entire city. The council still has to approve an ordinance to designate the city.