‘Slum’ status sought for 2 Belfast sites

Posted Dec. 23, 2010, at 10:39 p.m.

BELFAST, Maine — Most of the time, having a slum or a blighted area in your community is not considered a good thing.

But Belfast officials are actively seeking a slum and blight designation for certain parts of the city’s waterfront, with an eye toward obtaining federal grants to help rehabilitate them.

The proposed slum and blight areas are on Front Street. One surrounds the strip of food processing buildings that stretch along the harbor, some of which are no longer used, and also contains a parcel of city-owned railroad property. The other proposed slum and blight area surrounds the Penobscot McCrum freezer, which is operating.

Efforts to reach an official at the company Thursday were unsuccessful because it was closed for the Christmas holiday.

“There are benefits to designating these areas as slum and blight,” Thomas Kittredge, the economic development director for Belfast, said Wednesday.

He presented the information to the Belfast City Council at a work session before Tuesday’s regular meeting, and councilors agreed to have a public hearing on the designation at the start of the regular council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 4.

“It’s something we need to do to get grants,” Councilor Mike Hurley said. “I prefer to use other people’s tax dollars.”

According to Kittredge, the city needs the designation in order to qualify for federal Community Development Block Grants, available through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Those grants are given for activities that meet one of three national objectives: benefiting low- and moderate-income residents, aiding in the prevention of slum and blight, and meeting an urgent need.

Belfast’s rate of low- to moderate-income residents is 42 percent, according to the 2000 census, and that’s not high enough to qualify under that designation.

The city has been working to rehabilitate its waterfront and create a walkway there.

The agenda for the City Council meeting Jan. 4 will be posted online at www.cityofbelfast.org/agenda.shtm.

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