Blight Me!

7 08 2012
Taking care of business: A politically-connected rehabber scores a 10-year property tax break by expanding his law offices.   
Joseph V. Neill’s law office on Hampton Avenue in June 2011. In May, 16th-Ward Ald. Donna Baringer called for the property to be blighted, making it eligible for a 10-year tax abatement.

by Will Delaney

Attorney Joseph V. Neill, a member of the St. Louis police pension board appointed by Mayor Francis Slay, will receive up to a 10-year tax abatement for rehabbing his law office on Hampton Avenue, according to a bill filed in the Board of Aldermen.


On May 22, an ordinance introduced  by 16th-Ward Ald. Donna Baringer blighted Neill’s property, thereby creating a redevelopment area.  Under the law, blighting the property for redevelopment is in the  “interest of the public health, safety, morals and general welfare of the people of the city.”

In this case, blighting is also in the interest of the property owner,  JVN & Company, a limited liability corporation set up by Neill in 2009, which also includes four other attorneys that practice law at 5201 Hampton.

Baringer defends her legislation by saying that it is for the common good.

“The 16th Ward’s business district is 50 years old and in need of assistance for the deteriorating buildings,” Baringer told the Journal of Decomposition. “Joe Neill  has been active in our neighborhood for many years and is liked and respected. I took this piece of legislation before the St. Louis [Hills] Neighborhood Association before introducing it, and they had voted in favor of it.”

Records on file with the St. Louis Assessor’s Office  show JVN & Company  paid $7,440.33 in annual property taxes in November 2011. Under the terms of the proposed abatement, the commercial property will be frozen at its pre-improved assessed value  of  $84,100 for the next decade.  

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The Sunny Side of the Street

18 06 2012

The alleged Center of the Universe

A walk down Chippewa sheds light on St. Louis Forestry’s policies and practices

by Will Delaney

The Donut Drive-In, at Watson and Chippewa, is a Route 66 landmark and the alleged Center of the Universe. To be accurate, the Center of the Universe is thought by some to be inside the hole of one of the millions of glazed donuts that the shop has deep-fried here since 1954. But there is a lack of consensus among quantum physicists as to which hole that might be. The continuing enigma is an inexplicable leftover of the Cold War, steeped in hot grease and shrouded in secrecy.

Theorists postulate that the portal into the void may have passed decades ago, running its course through the digestive tract of an unsuspecting southsider, or it could very well be in the next batch of glazed delicacies to come out of the fryer. To be on the safe side, I ordered a couple of custard-filled pastries instead. They don’t have holes. I am normally less cautious, but recent events, which I attribute to the approaching summer solstice, have raised my guard. Under current karmic conditions, it was too early in the day to risk being swept into the vortex of a freaky donut hole that defies scientific explanation.

I ate breakfast in the asphalt parking lot, leaning against the west-facing wall of the concrete-block building, a location chosen not for its scenic view of the nearby car wash, but spurred  by extreme solar conditions, which by 10 a.m. were already turning city streets into a blast furnace.

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