EDITOR’S DESK: The virtues of blight

       The City of Manitou Springs has commissioned a study to find out if there are “blighted conditions” along a roughly
       1 1/2-mile segment of Manitou/Colorado Avenue. Anyone feel like taking odds as to whether those conditions will be found?
       It's a strange little cat-and-mouse game. You'd think the last thing a city would want to admit about itself or any of its property owners is that they have allowed blight to exist. But the fact is that a finding of blight can be an economic windfall.
       Gold Hill Mesa, soon to be the Westside's newest and spiffiest subdivision, was identified as blighted in 2005. Did that shock the ownership group? Not hardly. They had sought the designation. Being blighted gave them urban renewal status, which in turn opened the door to tax-increment financing - meaning the increase in property taxes resulting from the development will go back to the owners instead of to the city.
       It can hardly be considered a coincidence that it's the Economic Development arm of the City of Manitou that's been ramrodding this "East Manitou Springs Corridor Survey," as the blight-discovery effort is formally called. Reports that would-be visitors are making u-turns at the sight of "No Man's Land" definitely hits home for a town that relies so much on the tourist trade.
       The touchy part about the effort is that not all the property owners are on board with the keen aspects of being blighted. As can be inferred by the article this issue about the Maverick Motel, many of them work hard to keep their places up; they have to if they want to compete with the chains. The carrot the city is dangling to them is that their properties could become more valuable in an urban renewal area. But that doesn't work for owners who like where they are and the way it is now. Gosh, how old-fashioned: Stay in one place and keep it nice. Which raises one simple question: Why have the local governments (not just Manitou) waited all these years to make long-needed public improvements? Too bad they can't just declare blight on themselves and leave the property owners alone.

- K.J.