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City asking for public input on proposed changes to renaissance zone

Dickinson is looking to adjust its renaissance zone, potentially to extend it west to increase walkability between the downtown area and Dickinson State University.

From 5 to 7 p.m. on June 14 at City Hall, city staff will host a public input meeting to discuss amending the city's renaissance zone. A renaissance zone is an area designated by the city and state where residents and business owners can apply to improve their home or business in an effort to better older structures. Once the eligible project is completed, the owner's property taxes can be frozen for up to five years, meaning they will not increase as a result of the improvement.

Stark County Planner Steve Josephson said the idea of the zone is to encourage people to reinvest in the core of the city without being hit by a large, immediate tax increase as a result. People often work on the structure's interior with heating, plumbing or electrical updates or may work on the exterior, he said. The improvements may be made on existing structures or by tearing down a building and building a new one. A person may only complete one project in a renaissance zone, so they could not continue applying and doing multiple improvements over time.

In order to qualify, homeowners must show their reinvestment totals at least 20 percent or more of the property's value. Business owners must invest 50 percent or more.

"Renaissance zones have been a great partnership between the state and cities to augment or provide an incentive for economic development in the downtown community, or actually any area that a city designates for the renaissance zone," City Administrator Shawn Kessel said.

The state allows cities to have a certain number of blocks in their renaissance zone based on the population during the last census, Josephson said. With Dickinson's increase in population, the city is looking to expand the zone from 23 blocks to 38.

In the past, Dickinson's renaissance zone has been in the downtown area, currently on Villard Street and Highway 22. The city is proposing flattening the zone so it extends further east and west on Villard, Kessel said. They have chosen to have the zone in the downtown area because many see the downtown as a reflection of the community, so investing into downtown reflects well on all of Dickinson, he said. However, it does not have to remain in the downtown area.

City Planner Walter Hadley said the proposed zone would stretch up into the residential areas near DSU's campus, partially in hopes of inspiring some light commercial development — such as coffee shops or bookstores — near the campus. There are currently three commercial projects in the works in the downtown area, he said.

The city is looking for community input regarding the current and proposed boundaries of the zone as well as what the goal of the zone should be — whether that be a focus on residential areas, businesses or connecting with DSU. There will be a short presentation about renaissance zones and the proposed changes. People may also visit the city's website for more information or to view the application.

"The renaissance zone will also help residential areas and not just commercial businesses, so for anybody who's interested in becoming an entrepreneur or starting their business in the downtown area, this could really help them start," Kessel said.