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Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016

LCRA progress slow and frustration ensues

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority (LCRA) was established overwhelmingly by Sikeston voters nearly 10 years ago to acquire and remove rundown and dilapidated properties in Sikeston and make way for redevelopment.

I proudly serve as a commissioner on the LCRA Board and can assure you that the Board is both dedicated to our mission and involved in the ongoing process.

The pledge to Sikeston voters was that this newly created body would streamline the process of acquiring these problem properties. And the additional pledge was that the LCRA would remove the eyesores that have plagued our community for far too long.

It's important to note that hundreds of properties have been leveled. Abandoned houses that had fallen into disrepair beyond redemption were targeted and, in many cases, acquired and leveled.

Green space has replaced falling structures and the prospect for redevelopment of new owner-occupied homes is taking shape.

But I'm troubled both as a citizen and an LCRA commissioner that this year no homes have been leveled.

Money designated for LCRA -- $100,000 annually -- has been used to acquire title to more properties and to pay for the legal expenses involved. And these expenses -- along with the demolition -- take up the entire budget.

The city has met with little success in nudging many of the mortgage lenders to monitor their properties. And grant money to remove some of these properties is chock-full of hoops for environmental reasons that boost the costs substantially.

If you've noticed little progress on removing additional properties, you're right. The removal process is in limbo awaiting additional funding or some magical solution.

As has been said countless times, the task was much more severe than anyone imagined and the cost is massive.

Now the federal government -- those fine folk at the Environmental Protection Agency -- have put additional barriers in the way of removing these properties. The EPA's draconian requirements simply add huge costs to removing these eyesores and health and safety problems for our city.

But if you can find a way around the EPA, more power to you.

The city has clearly kept their promise to the citizens by spending those tax dollars to acquire and remove properties. But the process that many of us believed would take 10 years will instead take much, much longer unless there is some pocket of money available that is thus far elusive.

The redevelopment aspect is equally as troubling. When problem properties are removed, oftentimes developers are reluctant to take the gamble of building owner-occupied homes in neighborhoods that remain in transition.

An available lot surrounded by problem properties is not very appealing to a developer or a potential homeowner.

Thus, the redevelopment phase of this process is slow to take hold.

There is no fault nor blame in this entire process. Dedicated people address the issue of problem housing in Sikeston literally on a daily basis.

But the problem was and remains more widespread than anticipated. And the legal process is slow. The cost high.

Combined, these factors make for frustration on the part of LCRA and the city. And more importantly, it remains frustrating for those neighborhoods that had hoped for more improvements in a shorter time.

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Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen