Our View: Mesa makes savvy use of 'blighted' label - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Our View: Mesa makes savvy use of 'blighted' label

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Posted: Sunday, December 14, 2008 6:55 pm | Updated: 11:34 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

At first glance, it seems rather odd that Mesa has applied a "slum and blighted" label to the General Motors Proving Grounds with its 3,200 acres that appear primed and ready for building.

But in this case the phrase "slum and blighted" is something of a misnomer, as Mesa is using the legal description to trigger a state law that authorizes property tax breaks to encourage environmental cleanup.

GM has been using this land for more than 50 years for testing autos in development and experimental vehicles. Given the lax environmental practices of many American manufacturers in prior decades, it would be no surprise if there's toxic material scattered or buried on this property. In theory, GM should be responsible for removing any environmental hazards even after selling the proving grounds to Scottsdale-based DMB Associates. However, GM's poor fiscal health makes it likely that development projects could be held up for years if Mesa waits for the auto maker to act.

This is exactly the type of situation that state statutes anticipate. A $7 million tax break will help to finance an immediate cleanup instead of the land remaining dormant - and any environmental problems continuing to fester. Perhaps it's not ideal. But it's certainly a practical solution to what could be a difficult complication.

And for those who are still skeptical, we note that the "slum and blighted" label is only a small segment of the tax breaks being offered to DMB and Gaylord Entertainment to land two major resorts and a convention center as anchors for this area. The total package adds up to $136.5 million over the next 50 years.

Mesa voters will decide on a far larger portion of that package at a special election in March that likely will determine if the current plans go forward or come to a complete halt.

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