Westminster Declares Mall Blighted

The Westminster Mall is nearly dead. That is obvious to anyone who’s visited it in the last year or two. So, obviously, breathing new life into it is the job of central economic planners who work for the city of Westminster. We couldn’t possibly leave individuals free to use their own resources to renovate the property; this is about maximizing tax revenues, after all.

Monte Whaley’s fawning article for the Denver Post, which includes not a single word of skepticism or criticism about the city’s plans, nevertheless offers some useful details.

Whaley notes that the city has formed “an urban renewal area created after the City Council declared the 32-year-old center blighted this month.”

Blighted? The mall is largely empty, but blighted? Here’s is the key bit of Whaley’s article:

The city hired Leland Consulting Group and Matrix Design Group to assess the complex. Their findings showed substantial problems that led the city to put the blighted tag on the mall.

The problems included buildings without fire-suppression sprinklers, poor water availability to fight fires, deteriorating parking and sidewalks, unsanitary pools of standing water, poorly lit areas, unscreened trash and bad traffic circulation.

An urban renewal authority will allow the city to use tax increment financing for upgrades.

The authority will also have the option to use the power of eminent domain to seize ownership of some of the shops in the mall, McFall said.

Eminent domain? “Tax increment financing?” If the problem is that taxes are too high for businesses to succeed in Westminster, then why doesn’t the city simply reduce taxes across the board? That would never do: the purpose of the city is to maximize tax revenues, after all.

Did anyone doubt, going into the study, that Leland Consulting Group and Matrix Design Group would find blight conditions? (How much were they paid to return those results?)

We all know that the city of Westminster will not possibly tolerate any exposed hazards, messy trash, or standing water:





My guess is that, if every property in Westminster were evaluated by similar standards, over half would be declared blighted. But everybody knows that declaring a property “blighted” has only a superficial relationship to the condition of the property. The point is to let the city threaten people with eminent domain. (This might be a move the mall’s owners would actually welcome, given the lack of business there, but I’m not sure because Whaley apparently didn’t consider contacting them, and I don’t have the time to do Whaley’s job for him.)

Here’s a thought: why doesn’t the city stop trying to plan the economy and instead create simple rules and low taxes that would benefit existing businesses and attract new ones? We all know the answer: then the politicians and bureaucrats wouldn’t get to doll out favors and take credit for other people’s work.