LINCOLN — Cities would no longer have to declare properties “blighted and substandard” to provide tax-increment financing for redevelopment projects under a proposal given first-round approval by the Nebraska Legislature on Tuesday.
The “blighted” tag causes consternation for property owners due to the stigma it attaches to a plot of land and worries that it will lower property values.
The most recent instance was in Omaha in 2012 when property owners in the Old Mill area of west Omaha complained about attaching the blighted label to land around the new TD Ameritrade headquarters. There was also talk about designating the area around Crossroads, including the affluent Fairacres area, in central Omaha, as “blighted.” The city ended up removing Fairacres.
Tax-increment financing, or TIF, is one of the most common redevelopment tools used by cities, but some senators Tuesday complained that it has been misused to “blight” cornfields and high-income areas.
Under the proposed constitutional amendment, which must be approved by voters, the label “blighted and substandard” would be replaced by the term “in need of rehabilitation or redevelopment.”
Legislative Resolution 29CA was introduced by State Sen. Greg Adams, a former mayor of York, who said it would remove the stigma and serve to narrow when cities use TIF.
But Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, during floor debate, argued the proposal would have the opposite effect and allow developers to coerce cities into using it on property that wasn't blighted or in need of redevelopment.
The measure advanced on a 31-0 vote, and Adams assured Chambers that he would work with him to address his concerns.
In other action Tuesday, the Legislature:
— Gave first-round approval, 37-4, to a measure that would increase fines for livestock trucks that spill manure on highways near South Omaha's meatpacking district. LB 174 would increase the minimum fine from $100 to $250 to discourage spills.
Four rural senators opposed the bill, saying it would discourage truckers from hauling to Omaha's packing houses. But Omaha Sen. Heath Mello, the bill's sponsor, said the measure has the support of both a state trucking association and the meatpackers, who fine truckers $500 for manure spills on their properties.
— Gave initial approval to a bill that would require flood-damaged cars to be titled as such in Nebraska. Lincoln Sen. Bill Avery, who sponsored LB 446, said it was an effort to protect consumers from unscrupulous dealers who make cosmetic changes to flood-damaged cars and then title and sell them in places such as Nebraska. The state currently doesn't require a “flood damaged” tag to be attached to such vehicles, he said.
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