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El Paso

Public hearing on downtown El Paso historic district draws just 5 speakers, including developer Paul Foster

EL PASO, Texas -- On Saturday, El Paso County Commissioners Court held a public hearing to clarify confusion surrounding a proposed national historic district in downtown.

This whole process has been going on since 2016, officials said. The county gave a presentation to break down the timeline and explain what it means for property owners to be in the historic district.

County leaders wanted downtown property owners to come listen and then share their concerns with the Court. A letter written by a law firm that is representing opposing property owners alleges the county did not do enough for outreach to the public during the process.

However, only five people took the opportunity to speak Saturday, and only one of them owned property in downtown.

“There needs to be substantial and meaningful dialogue involving the county, the city, and representatives of downtown property owners," billionaire real estate developer Paul Foster, who owns multiple downtown properties, said.

One issue raised in the meeting was the decision to have the city-owned properties in the Duranguito neighborhood, which is the site of a proposed arena project, removed from the proposed district. Opponents of the plan say that the city would not be able to get the tax credits awarded to private properties in historic districts, and because of that, the properties should be removed completely.

But Commissioner David Stout believes there is still the prospect that those properties could be sold to private owners in the future who could capitalize on the tax credits.

“We don’t want to leave a huge chunk of historic buildings out of the opportunity for gaining these tax credits," Stout said.

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Dylan McKim

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