Economic development is a buzzword in Utah Valley, but the popularity of redevelopment agencies is prompting a concern about the definition of their role.

According to Kelvin Clayton, a member of Orem's Redevelopment Agency and of the City Council, redevelopment agencies are designed to expedite the redevelopment process.This refers to the process of "taking a built-up area and changing the land usage by clearing old development and replacing it with new development," Clayton said.

But Harold Hintze of Gardiner and Hintze, a law firm in Salt Lake City that has been working with redevelopment issues, said it involves more than that.

Redevelopment does not mean just tearing down old buildings, said Hintze. It means removing those things that have caused the area to be blighted in the first place.

"You must eliminate the economic and social forces that turn an area into a blighted area," he said. Tearing down a building and not addressing the real problem means the new area will likely become blighted, too.

Cole Durham, a law professor at Brigham Young University, said, "We need to do a better job at helping people understand what redevelopment is."

Redevelopment plans are not designed to be set in concrete. They are master plans from which to work.

Ron Madsen, director of redevelopment for Provo, said the use of this framework should not go too far.

"If you involve all your economic development as redevelopment then you have forgotten the purpose of redevelopment areas," Madsen said. The redevelopment agencies should just prime the economic pump, they shouldn't become the pump.

Much of the economic development in Provo has not been in redevelopment areas, he said.

"We have only tried to do enough to stimulate the economy," Madsen said. And he feels the Provo redevelopment agency has been effective in working toward that goal.

There are two Utah statutes that describe how a redevelopment agency can function. One permits the existing city council to be that agency and the other allows the council to appoint others to serve as the agency.

Madsen said all redevelopment agencies in Utah are also the city councils.

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Redevelopment agencies

Cities that have redevelopment agencies (all of which have the same membership as the city councils) in Utah Valley

American Fork

Lehi

Lindon

Orem

Payson

Provo

Spanish Fork

Those cities that do not have redevelopment agencies:

Pleasant Grove

Springville