Rutland City Blighted properties could get tax help
By Gordon Dritschilo
Staff Writer | January 24,2013
City officials are looking for one vote from residents and another from the Legislature.
Rutland voters will get a chance to weigh in at town meeting on granting the Board of Aldermen the authority to make tax stabilization deals on residential properties. From the Legislature, city leaders hope to get an expansion of the state law that governs such deals.
The Board of Aldermen voted 6-2 Tuesday night in favor of placing the question on the March ballot.
The only argument against the measure came from Alderman Charles Romeo, who said he supported the intent but believed the city was reading state statute wrong and that the voters would have to approve each residential tax stabilization rather than authorizing the board to do so as they arose. Alderman Jon Kiernan cast the other dissenting vote without comment.
Brennan Duffy, Rutland Redevelopment Authority executive director, brought the proposal to the board, offering it as a tool in the city’s fight against blighted housing. The goal, he said, is to offer to freeze the municipal assessments of blighted properties for five years when owners are willing to make substantial improvements to those properties.
Alderwoman Sharon Davis said the measure would give homeowners an incentive to help stabilize their neighborhoods, and several other aldermen joined her in the sentiment.
The only comment from the public came from Cam Johnston, who said the measure was premature without an official definition of “blight” and that he believed it would open the city to lawsuits.
State statute, however, would limit eligibility to homeowners with below-median incomes. Duffy had said he hopes to see that changed by the Legislature in order to promote mixed-income neighborhoods, and he said Tuesday that the Vermont Agency of Commerce was favorable to such a change.
Reached Wednesday, Rep. Herb Russell, D-Rutland City, said he had been paying attention to the issue and stood ready to introduce something changing the statute whenever he gets a go-ahead from city leaders.
“It would be good to get going with it,” he said. “If, in fact, they need my help, I’m ready to go.”
Louras said he expects to speak with Russell in Montpelier today.
“I’ll tell him to go forth and prosper,” he said.