The property of residents and landowners in the Union Fort area is blighted, according to the Salt Lake County Commission.
After more than a year of hearings and battles with people who own houses in the area - some of which are more than 100 years old - the county voted Monday to designate the land as blighted.The action removes one more hurdle for Hermes Associates Inc., which wants to expand the Family Center shopping center near the homes.
But county commissioners said they weren't necessarily opening the door for the developers.
While voting to declare the area around the Family Center as blighted, the commission failed to make the next decision - whether taxpayers will help developers raze homes and expand the shopping center.
Instead, commissioners set a public hearing for March 16 from 2 to 5 p.m. to discuss what the next step will be.
Commissioners said they believe the neighborhood is run down and that it poses several hazards, including narrow roads and open canals and ditches.
Commissioner Brent Overson said nearly all property owners have neglected their homes.
"Whether this neglect was intentional or was a result of lack of monetary resources was not clearly stated or evidenced," he said.
Overson and Commissioner Jim Bradley both were reluctant to say the existence of blight should lead automatically to a redevelopment project that destroys the residential neighborhood.
"When I ask myself should this neighborhood be removed or redeveloped because of its general appearance, I can't honestly say yes," Bradley said. "The blight statute could be applied to a multitude of neighborhoods in this county, and I want to make it clear that a finding of the legal existence of blight does not suggest that a public subsidy to correct it is necessary."
Because it has already held hearings on this matter in recent weeks, the commission didn't accept any comment from area residents, most of whom have fought to keep their houses.
Residents have battled since early last year to save historic structures in the Union Fort area including the historic Jehu Cox home and remnants of the Union Fort wall uncovered by archaeologists.
The rezoning and redevelopment matters have been considered several times throughout the year by county officials. Most recently, 13 hours of evidentiary hearings were held on the RDA designation.