MILLCREEK, UT (KUTV) -- There is a major about-face from Millcreek City leaders, who are abandoning their plans to declare a huge section of town a "blight."
Millcreek wants to develop the area east of Brickyard Plaza into a big, beautiful new city center. While there are no official development plans, or even an official developer, the city released an outline of what it hopes to see: new high-density homes, shops, restaurants, parks and maybe even a new city hall.
The city has been working for months on a blight study to declare the neighborhood, officially, ugly. Doing so would force homeowners and business owners to sell their land to a developer.
Those plans are now going down the drain.
"We're not going to support the blight study," Millcreek City Mayor Jeff Silvestrini told Get Gephardt Monday.
As Get Gephardt reported last month, city officials have been getting an earful from residents who are angry about the blight study. Tina Grant is among the 68 percent of landowners whose homes have been labeled blighted by the study. Her home made the 'ugly-list' because it has a cracked sidewalk. Grant says she resents the idea that she could be forced to sell, especially over an issue that the city created by not doing proper maintenance.
"As a homeowner, I should be free to sell or keep my property as I want to," Grant told Get Gephardt in November.
The mayor and his staff have been making a strong case for the blight study and why his administration supports it: the city doesn't want hold-outs that could stand in the way of growth by refusing to sell. When asked about deciding to abruptly abandon the blight study, Silvestrini told Get Gephardt that he has been overwhelmed by the public outcry.
“I hope [residents] felt like they were heard. We've been listening. I've been hearing them," Mayor Silvestrini said.
The decision is not the mayor’s alone. There is a city council meeting slated for Monday night and on the agenda is another public comment period where people are invited to speak in favor or against the blight study. A similar meeting on November 13 saw a standing-room-only crowd with the vast majority speaking angrily against the blight study. The mayor, as well as Millcreek City's Economic Development Director, Mike Winder, anticipate a calmer meeting this time. Silvestrini expects the fight to be over—with the council voting to abandon the study—before the meeting is opened up for public comment.
“I think it will be a unanimous vote, and frankly, a great case study of city officials listening to the people,” Rep. Winder said.
Silvestrini says the city wants to move forward with the development in the area. Without the area being designated a blight, it will force any potential developers to convince the landowner that it's worth their while to sell.
Asked whether or not he still fears potential holdouts, Silvestrini said, “I hope we don't regret it but I think we'll be okay."