Mayor wants discussion on redevelopment: Lodi NJ News-Sentinel, 2/9/07

By Matt Brown

Lodi Mayor Bob Johnson has called for another look at redevelopment, but he says he's not interested in taking property for private enterprise.

At Wednesday's City Council meeting, the mayor said he was interested in revisiting the city's dormant redevelopment agency. The Lodi Redevelopment Agency, which is charged with improving neighborhoods and removing blight, is not active because it does not have a project zone.

Redevelopment agencies have been criticized for their use of eminent domain; taking property for either public or private use. Lodi passed an ordinance in March 2006 which prohibits eminent domain for private development.

"No one is saying we should revisit eminent domain," Johnson said. "I'm just trying to get a conversation going."

Johnson said blighted areas, such as land along the Union Pacific railroad tracks, could be put into a redevelopment project zone. As the value of the property in the project zone increases, the redevelopment agency would receive the profits from tax revenue. The agency could reinvest the funds into the project zone by cleaning up graffiti, adding street lights or paving streets, Johnson said.

"We are gun-shy about discussing this," he said. "People said they don't want eminent domain. I think we can accomplish this without eminent domain."

Local advocate Jane Lea led a campaign to abandon the redevelopment agency in 2002. The agency has done nothing and exists in name only.

Lea, a 2006 council candidate, said county services are hurt by redevelopment.

She said county services rely on revenue from property taxes, and funds are siphoned off when redevelopment agencies receive profits from property taxes.

"The county is broke," she said. "Cities with large redevelopment agencies don't pay their fair share. They are stealing from the county."

Lodi NJ News-Sentinel: http://www.lodinews.com