Citizens' rights are being abused, counties are losing money and schools are deprived by local redevelopment agencies.
These harsh charges are being launched by Citizens Committee for Protection of Property Rights, which vows to expose "the evils" of redevelopment agencies statewide.But even with legislative allies, the committee faces tough opposition from RDA officials and community leaders throughout the state. They challenge the non-profit group to find a substitute for economic development.
"The purpose of this organization is to protect taxpaying residents and businessmen and women from various abusive governmental and private programs, which take tax monies to provide special benefits to privileged developers and individuals," said Monte Draper, chairman of Citizens Committee for Protection of Property Rights. "Among programs under consideration are many of the redevelopment agencies of Utah."
Committee members, Draper said, want to "expose the abuses" of these agencies.
The group had hoped to kick off its campaign Tuesday at a joint meeting of the Murray City Council and the city's Redevelopment Agency. Group members listened to public comment regarding the proposed development of 61/2 acres across from the Fashion Place Mall on State Street.
A commercial center has been proposed by one land owner, but it has been opposed by some business owners.
Members of the property rights committee didn't speak at the hearing but say their voices will be heard through legislative allies in the Capitol.
It's the second time a bill has been introduced to limit the powers of RDAs, and the agencies don't like it.
"Probably better than 50 percent of the economic development in the state of Utah is occurring with the assistance of redevelopment agencies," said Blaine K. Gehring, president of the Utah Redevelopment Association. "What these people and some legislators are saying is that there have been some problems with RDAs. But unless there is an alternative for economic development by cities and local governments, that's the only tool we have right now."
Redevelopment agencies generally are funded through "tax increments" - the increased property tax that a development pays. Taxes on the old value of the property continue to go to counties and school districts, but the difference goes to the RDA.
The committee's crusade has been boosted by Rep. Reese Hunter, R-Salt Lake. His HB118 will attempt to take from city redevelopment agencies the right of eminent domain. It also would prohibit them from selling properties they've obtained for less than market value.