Post Independent opinion: Silt’s plans to use urban renewal authority raise serious questions
What ever happened to the free market?
A conservative slate of trustees was elected in Silt in 2010, and, as some of them have reminded us recently, part of their platform was to bring a grocery store to town.
And that’s exactly what they’re trying to do. You have to respect politicians who follow through on campaign promises.
But serious questions are raised by their approach. This includes creating an urban renewal authority and asking Garfield County for $4 million.
As part of Silt’s urban renewal authority a 32-square-block area has been designated as “blighted.” The state’s urban renewal statute refers to blighted areas as “a serious and growing menace, injurious to the public health, safety, morals, and welfare of the residents of the state in general.” They say Silt happens, but that description sounds more like Sodom and Gomorrah.
The county commissioners have pledged to give Silt $1 million, which would be used for infrastructure such as sidewalks and utility improvements in preparation for commercial development.
The town would also be able to use the money to build a shell that it could lease to the grocery or some other business.
But since when is it the role of government to be in the commercial development business? With the free market in mind, we have to ask, if someone could make a going concern of a grocery in Silt, then why haven’t they done so already?
Commissioner Tom Jankovsky even used the “L” word in describing this plan, calling it “a liberal way of … trying to do something.” He also flatly stated, “I cannot support giving money to an urban renewal authority.”
And yet he did. Or, with some deft sleight of hand, he didn’t. The money is technically going to the town for economic development. Silt is apparently free to go about that however it sees fit.
Commissioner Mike Samson justified the expenditure by pointing out the significant sums the county has given to other municipalities. Yet it doesn’t seem to be comparing apples to oranges when those projects include an Interstate 70 interchange in Parachute and affordable housing in Carbondale, which were not undertaken to increase local sales tax revenues.
But a comparison with commercial development in Carbondale is interesting. Some Carbondalians are absolutely incensed at the notion of being “taxed” a 1 percent public improvement fee on all sales at the Village at Crystal River development in order to pay for a roundabout on state Highway 133.
If Silt residents had to subsidize this development by themselves, would the idea ever get off the ground?
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