A city of Columbia's effort to classify certain neighborhoods as blighted to help businesses secure tax credits continues to draw fire from local activists.
The "blight" label is required by the state Department of Economic Development to create Enhanced Enterprise Zones. The zones are distinct areas where businesses can receive tax breaks in return for adding new facilities or jobs.
Opponents say the label will lower property values and could make it easier for local government to seize property under eminent domain laws.
A proposed enhanced enterprise zone in Columbia has generated a lot of discussion for the last few months. Concerns about the designation of blight required for the EEZ have been widely discussed in the news and at city council meetings. On Monday, Columbia City Council voted to throw out the original proposal and possibly start the process over. In part 1 of her 3 part series on the EEZ program, KBIA’s Sarah Redohl explores whether Columbia is different from other EEZs.
The City Council passed Resolution 20-12A to declare some parts of Columbia as “blighted” in February. While the blight decree caused a large amount of backlash from Columbia residents, it was the legality of the resolution that caught the council’s attention.
Concerns about a “blight” designation in the city of Columbia are continuing to come out in public forums. Issues such as using outdated census data from the year 2000, incorporating the first ward in the blighted zone, and potential employment of felons in the new “blighted” areas are among concerns being raised.
The ongoing debate over the Enhanced Enterprise Zone in Columbia prompted a change today. The proposed blight zone for Columbia is now a little bit smaller. The Enhanced Enterprise Zone Advisory Board unanimously voted in favor of eliminating six portions of the original blight zone.