howardnlby Howard Stephenson

The Deseret Morning News recently published an article on the Redevelopment Agency debate with particular emphasis on Farmington City’s latest proposal. In the article Farmington officials stated that their RDA is addressing legitimate blight because the area is farmland with a high water table.

“It’s going to sit there for years and not be developed,” said Gary Jones, a consultant for Farmington City, arguing for RDA tax subsidies to develop open space in Davis County.

Based on Jones’ logic, 80% of land in Utah ought to receive subsidies because it is going to sit there, undeveloped, for years — perhaps centuries – without development. Oddly, many of the advocates for tax subsidies to develop Farmington’s open space were among the loudest voices in favor of last November’s failed Initiative 1 which would have provided tax subsidies to protect open space like that in Farmington’s proposed RDA.

Farmington‘s claims raise several questions:

– Since when has farmland or unimproved land with high water table been considered blight? A lot of land surrounding Utah Lake and the Great Salt Lake would qualify as “blighted” under that definition.

– How can Farmington justify using tax dollars to subsidize economic activity that will occur in the area anyway while destroying perfectly good open space despite significant political pressure to increase taxes to preserve open space? The allegedly blighted area is located near the Davis County Jail and is visible to motorists passing through Farmington on I-15. The association invites taxpayers to view the land for themselves to see if the land is truly blighted.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

The Utah Taxpayers Association has published photographs of so-called “blight” such as that explained above in Farmington. The photographs are proof positive that many cities have misused the blight designation to more easily achieve their development plans. Some of the photographs are shown here. Others can be accessed on the web at .

Years of complaining about misuse of the blight designation got little attention. But the photographs are communicating the abuse which has been happening and finally, both citizens and city officials are taking notice. In a recent meeting of city officials in St. George the League of Cities and Towns showed a slide presentation of the photographs on the Taxpayers Association’s website and warned that if cities want to continue legitimate uses of RDAs, they had better end the abuse of blight designations.

The Utah Taxpayers Association is considering hiring a professional photographer to take pictures for a “Utah Blight Calendar” similar to the Utah! Tourism Calendar used to promote Utah’s natural wonders.  I believe people would be amazed at the beautiful acreage across the urban Wasatch Front which city RDAs seek to turn into commercial developments at taxpayer expense.  It’s ironic that this land is the very type of property which open space proponents were seeking to preserve through a statewide tax hike on last November’s ballot.