State lawmakers have killed a bill that would have gutted the authority of redevelopment agencies to condemn the private property of those unwilling to sell to the agency.
The House Revenue and Taxation committee voted overwhelmingly to kill HB118, sponsored by Rep. Reese Hunter, R-Salt Lake, despite hearing several horror stories from businessmen and homeowners who have been abused by redevelopment agencies."It's Robin Hood in reverse," Hunter said. "You take from the little fellow and give to the rich."
Hunter's bill would also have required redevelopment agencies to sell their properties at fair market value.
Fifty cities and two counties in Utah have redevelopment agencies designed to designate blighted areas of the community, purchase them and then offer them to businesses willing to relocate. Supporters say increased property taxes more than offset the cost of land incentives to developers.
"The public purpose is the removal of blight . . . that has become a cancer on our communities," said Bill Oswald, attorney for the Salt Lake Redevelopment Agency.
"We try to make it easier for a developer to come into a blighted area than it is for them to buy a cornfield 10 miles outside of town and build there."
Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller testified in favor of redevelopment agencies, saying the new Jazz arena would not be built without those kind of economic incentives.
But Hunter argued the issue is big business vs. private property rights. "It's the big guns that profit from this thing. If one person's property rights are in jeopardy, then all people's property rights are in jeopardy."