Silt Board rammed through URA resolutions

January 24, 2012


In an astonishing display of disrespect to property owners and citizens, the SiltBOTs circumvented the democratic process and created an Urban Renewal Authority (UAR) by resolution. At the January 23 meeting, the SiltBOTs voted unanimously to approve Resolution No. 9, Series 2012:

A resolution of the Board of Trustees making legislative findings determining an area within the Town of Silt  to be a blighted area and appropriate for inclusion in an urban renewal project and further adopting the Blight Study prepared by THK Associates, Inc in December 2011.

And they voted 5 to 1 in favor of Resolution No. 10, Series 2012:

A resolution of the Board of Trustees creating the Silt Urban Renewal Authority and designating the Board of Trustees as the Board of Commissioners of the Authority.

Mayor Dave voted against Resolution 10 because he wants a separate board of commissioners, appointed by him of course.

Well over 50 people packed the town hall and stood in the hallway outside the chambers.

Based on the information provided at the board meeting, I might have been inclined to vote for the Urban Renewal Authority. But I won’t be allowed the opportunity to vote for or against it, nor will any other Silt resident.

I still have many concerns about the Blight Study and the URA, but what disturbs me the most was the process with which the town staff and the SiltBOTs rammed it through.

By framing these issues as resolutions and not ordinances, the SiltBOTS were not required to hold a public meeting. We were lucky they even allowed members of the public three minutes to speak. If the two resolutions had been presented as ordinances, there would have been two public hearings, and the people would have had the option to petition the board to put the ordinances on the ballot.

I asked, “Why isn’t this a ballot resolution?”

Mayor Pro-Tem Aluise said, “Because we don’t have to.”

Mayor Dave mentioned that Silt voters had rejected the Columbine Market. That is so 20th century. I can’t even remember what year it was, maybe 1998. But since he brought it up, yeah, I voted against the 1.5% city sales tax on food, which had been proposed as an incentive to finance a Columbine Market. I’m not a fan of public financing for commercial development, or sales tax on food. At the time, I also thought the town staff and board did a poor job of presenting the whole proposition to the public.

Likewise the current staff and board did a poor job of presenting the Urban Renewal Authority. Board members admitted the issues of URA and Tax Increment Financing (TIF) are complicated and they have had months to study them. Trustees Taylor and Fleming even said they were against it at the start, but changed their minds because they understand it better after many months of study. When I challenged board members about that, they indicated an unwillingness to allow the public even a fraction of the time they allowed themselves.

Aluise responded by chastising the public for not showing up at board meetings. Sorry, but that doesn’t cut it. Voters elect trustees to represent them. Once elected it is their duty and responsibility to inform the public about important issues. It’s a moot point anyway. We could have gone to all the board meetings and workshops and we still would not have been given the chance to vote on the resolutions. How ironic that he criticized the public for not getting involved in a process that, as evidenced by the board’s actions, was never intended to allow public participation. Evidently they know what’s best for the town and the public suffers from fear and ignorance.

The Blight Study was just released last month, December 2011. Notices were sent out to property owners in the blighted areas the second week of January 2012. The resolutions were passed on January 23. One public hearing was not enough to cover these complicated and confusing resolutions.

Most of the questions came from confused property owners in the blighted areas. It came to light during the hearing that if property owners wanted to opt out of the blight study they had to do so prior to the board’s vote on the resolution that night, or wait until another blight study is done in a year or two. This opt-out clause was not adequately explained to property owners prior to the public hearing. Several property owners expressed concerns and confusion about the short and long-term implications.

Local developer and Silt resident Les Simms, who owns properties in the blighted area, expressed frustration at the lack of information and short notice to property owners. Like many others, he wasn’t necessarily for or against the URA, he just wanted more time and more information. The board members simply reassured him there was no cause for concern because the URA is a good thing, and “blight study” is just an unfortunate term.

Aluise and Town Attorney Lee Leavenworth assured everyone the town had met state requirements for notifying the public and/or property owners. I don’t doubt that. But how do they expect the public to digest, in two weeks or less, what they claim to have been working on for two years? What was the rush?

It’s funny how candidates embrace the democratic process to get elected then circumvent it to fulfill their agendas. “You elected me, therefore I can do anything I want” is not exactly how democracy works. I had hoped for much more accountability from this particular board.

Silt Board of Trustees Meeting on January 23, 2012
(The video is broken up into sections, according the Agenda, which makes it easier to watch)

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