The Bellevue City Council has given unanimous approval to declaring a 185-acre section of Olde Towne blighted and substandard.
The designation covers two blocks on either side of Mission Avenue.
Council President Scott Houghtaling, who represents the Olde Towne area, spoke in favor of the blighted designation but recused himself from voting because he owns property in the designated area.
The designation is necessary for developers to secure the benefits of tax-increment financing.
Several residents expressed concern to the council that the blighted and substandard designation would reduce property values in the targeted area and that the City Council would use its eminent domain power to seize those properties at reduced values to accommodate developers.
Council members and City Attorney Pat Sullivan assured residents that neither would be the case.
“Whenever (TIF) has been approved in a city, I’ve never seen property values go down,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan also noted that eminent domain power can be exercised only by public bodies and only after a lengthy series of hearings. Council members also assured the residents that the city has no intention of acquiring houses against the will of owners.
“It’s not about eminent domain and taking grandma out of her house,” Councilwoman Carol Blood said. “There is nothing — nothing — in the works to take anyone’s home. The truth is that we’re putting out a welcome mat for developers to bring in business.”