After reassuring residents the move won’t have the negative effects they fear, Baraboo’s Plan Commission recommended declaring a south-side neighborhood blighted to secure aid for rebuilding Lake Street.
Commissioners voted 6-0 to declare 82 homes and the battered street that serves them a blighted area. The move paves the way for the city to use $800,000 in grant money to help pay for rebuilding Lake Street this year. The commission’s recommendation will go to the Common Council.
Time is of the essence, as the grant program is set to close. One way the city can access those funds and not lose them when the program closes is to spend it on a project in an area it designates as blighted.
“It’s something we believe is a tremendous asset to the community and an opportunity we should not pass up,” City Engineer Tom Pinion said.
The properties lie along Lake between Maple Street and Inverness Terrace Court.
Residents expressed concern about the effect having the neighborhood associated with blight might have on property values. Lake Street resident Rob Brown said such a designation could diminish resale values and make securing home loans more difficult. The form the city will file with the Wisconsin Division of Energy, Housing and Community Resources bears the heading, “Slum & Blight Certification.”
“Is that how we really want to label something in Baraboo?” Brown said. “You’re picking on 85 homes to get a grant to fix the road.”
City staff reassured Brown that the blight designation would only be used to get the street repaired, and wouldn’t remain attached to the neighborhood. While many properties in the neighborhood show signs of deterioration, city staff said they don’t consider Lake Street a slum.
“It’s not a reflection on them, necessarily,” City Administrator Ed Geick said. “It’s more a reflection on the street.”
The Common Council voted in late 2017 to borrow money to pay for the estimated $1.1 million cost of rebuilding Lake Street. But that project and other road work was delayed by late-summer flooding. Leaders said the closing of a state Community Development Block Grant program, in which the city had $800,000 tied up in a revolving loan fund, presented an opportunity to secure aid. The state would give the city that money in grant form.
“It’s giving us a way to get that money back and use it,” Geick said.
Residents said they were satisfied with staff reassurances. They’ll be notified when the matter goes before the council. Commissioner Patrick Liston said a rebuilt street and new sidewalks should improve property values.