With the immediate goal of attracting a grocery store to Clearfield, the City Council has approved an ambitious long-range redevelopment plan for the city's "West-side Central Business District Area."
The council has determined that the triangular area - bordered by U.S. 91 and Main Street and approximately 50 North and 700 South - is blighted. (Please see box.)To fight the blight - and to boost the local economy - the plan seeks to provide incentives so property owners and developers can "get together" to attract new businesses to the project area.
If necessary, the RDA holds the power of eminent domain, which it can use to purchase property that needs cleaning up, subdividing or consolidation with other parcels to make it more desirable to investors.
The first business, said City Councilman Rulon Cummings, should be a grocery store.
"We ought to make it very clear that (getting a grocery store) is our priority No. 1." Though skeptical because the RDA has done nothing substantial during its seven years of existence, Cummings said he was optimistic the agency could be a good "instrument" to help property owners sell to developers.
Another goal of the RDA is improving traffic circulation through and around the project area and upgrading the infrastructure.
The major traffic needs include an overpass that would route traffic from Center Street over the railroad tracks to west 200 South. The overpass would permit the city to close the 200 South railroad crossing, one of the most dangerous in the state.
New storm drains, beautification, roads and curb-and-gutter projects are also planned.
The city, however, won't have money for the road and improvement projects until it can attract some sort of private development, said Randy Sant, Clearfield RDA attorney.
Under the RDA law, the RDA receives "tax increment" funding to spend improving the project area. That funding represents the difference in property taxes the property generates after development versus what it generated prior to the new development.
At a recent hearing, many of the property owners expressed their support for the RDA plan.
However, Nicole Green, a Farmington woman who is crusading against hasty RDA decisions, said she was opposed to the project.
"I feel you are not doing the right thing. It hurts public education," she said, referring to tax increment money that is diverted to the RDA rather than going to the normal taxing districts.
But City Attorney Larry Waggoner assured the council that the plan was legal and would not harm public education.
"Nicole's not an attorney. I am," Waggoner said. "She's a mother. I'm not."
Randy Sant, the Clearfield's RDA attorney, said the 90-acre "West Side Central Business District Area" suffers numerous problems:
- Of the 55 permanent structures, 34 experience some form of blight, from a residential roof that needs replacing to an old cannery that is completely deteriorated.
- 45 of the 93 pieces of property within the project area have been targets of some type of public complaint, from the presence of rats to illegal dumping.
- 35 of the 93 lots are too small or not shaped for adequate development.
- 75 percent of the streets and roads in the area need new curbs and gutters.
- Parts of Main and 350 South need replacement.
- Inadequate storm lines regularly cause flooding at a mobile park and at another large, privately owned lot.
"There is blight in the area and it is a detriment to the public health and safety," Sant said.