COUNTY COMMISSION VOTES TO APPROVE CENTRAL PARK CRA-Andrew Stelzer

06/07/06

In January of 2004, the city of Tampa proposed a plan to redevelop Central Park Village, the housing projects between orange and Nebraska avenues, bordered by I-275 and Nuccio. The item came to the county commission with short notice, and was rejected. Today, the city of Tampa came back to the county commission once again asking for the creation of a Community Revitalization Area. WMNFs Andrew Stelzer reports.

The City of Tampa’s revenue and finance director Bonnie Wise gave a short presentation about the proposed Community Redevelopment Plan, explaining that of the 143 acres, only 28% consists of central park village. Wise explained that in the first 10 years, 100% of both city and county tax dollars from the area would be put back into that specific area, and in years 10 through 30, the county contribution could be lowered to 70%.

Commissioner Tom Scott opened discussion by stating his disappointment in the entire process, since the failed attempt to redevelop central park more than 2 years ago. Scott said he hasn’t seen enough of a plan about what the money would be used for.

ACT-Scott “I has more information in January of 04 than today..people say you don’t need a plan and dont need to know anything. I recognize CRAs didn’t have a plan, but those were different, there’s been a change to develop a plan..�

Scott then laid out an ultimatum

ACT-Scott “You want my vote let me tell you want its gonna take to get my vote..they need a CRA but we need to have input into what happens with tax payer dollars..�

Scott had a 4 page document passed out to commissioners city staff and the press which detailed several questions and 8 demands which he wanted attached to the CRA. The demands related to the tax money only being used for projects in the plan, and that the county’s share not be used for city administrative expenses. A Bank Of America representative assured the commission that all of the conditions are doable, and they intend to have minority participation, mixed income and the relocation of current residents. Commissioner Scott responded.

ACT “I have ten years of experience, if its not in writing it didn’t exist..’

One demand which drew discussion was the creation of a Board to manage the CRA, which would consist of 2 county commissioner, 2 city council members, 2 citizens appointed by the city and 1 citizen appointed by the county. City attorney David Smith said that by law that wasn’t possible, because the city council has to manage all CRAS, but county attorney Renee Lee disputed this, and said a special board could be created to manage on Central Park Village portion of the CRA. Jim Hosler, with the planning commission responded to Scotts demands, including involvement of minorities in all stages of the process.

ACT_hosler “We’ve been involved since day 1, flyers..chairmen when I'm talking about minority involvement, not speaking out..Civitas had contractors as part of the team so everyone could benefit..if I could respond the CRA does not include any proposal..’

Commissioner Kathy Castor seconded Scott’s motion, commissioner Blair agreed as well. But Commissioner Mark Sharpe said he didn’t want to approve the plan only a few minutes after seeing Scott’s conditions, and suggested the entire process be given more time. The CRA must be created by July 1st in order for tax revenue for the following year to come to the TIF. The county commission only has one more meeting in the month of June, and then takes a month of vacation. Tampa Housing Authority CEO Jerome Ryans told the county commission that something has to be done for the sake of the more than 1300 residents who will soon be evicted from the central park projects.

ACT-Ryans “Regardless of what happens we gonna get people out of here..even if we have to put up a fence, not just for central park but the area..143 acres, 20 percent is housing authority’s property..�

The commission broke for lunch, and then delayed discussion of the CRA until the last item of the day. At the same time, city officials were discussing Scott’s demands. Around 430 pm, City attorney David Smith told the county commission that 1 item on Scotts list is already state law, 4 more of the items could not be included in the agreement because they deal with how the TIF funds are spent, which is not part of the CRA designation, and he had a counter proposal for the other 3 items.

David Smith---city attorney “We do appreciate the nature of your concerns..we believe creating a community redevelopment agency is not legal. July 1..would require a rewrite…we offer a substitute..County commissioner…also commission meet once a year..and also we join together in planning..�

But Commission Scott did not like the city’s response, and asked that the county commissioner for the district in which central park sits, as well as one at large commissioner be added to the CRA board, and that the citizens advisory board he recommended be created. The city’s attorneys responded by saying the system being proposed by Scott wouldn’t be legal until July 1st, and waiting until after then would delay the CRA for a year.

ACT-Scott “I have a major problem with what has been presented today…I wanted a real partnership, and it seems like you don’t want that to happen….I said this..I said developers, and at the ending phase…that’s not a partnership�

Commissioner Blair wanted to agree to the city’s conditions. Sharpe wanted to expand the points that couldn’t be part of the CRA, and make them part of the strategic plan to be created after the CRA is established. He also said Scotts proposal to put new conditions on the city at this late date was unfair.

ACT-Sharpe “To do this at the last moment…I support blair..and the shoe is on the other foot…�

Commissioner Storms suggested there is not a real deadline looming, but Smith, along with a Ban of America representative, said the loss of 1 years worth of Tax Increment Financing funds would put the project in jeopardy. Storms asked the city attorney what’s wrong with taking 2 more weeks to investigate if 2 county commissioners can be added to the CRA board.

ACT-Smith “There is a antipathy to treating central park differently..WHY IS THIS DIFFERENT..because its different..�

Commissioner Scott then asked county attorney Renee lee about the reason for the July 1st law change.

ACT-Scott “The law was changed because the county is excluded…THE CITY CAN AGREE TO ADD THEM AS OF JULY 1st..�the state law has been changed because county’s have been excluded. I don’t have to serve on the CRA..I want to protect the people..discriminatory, I don’t know what he’s talking about..�

Commissioner Kathy Castor said she thought it would be okay to add the 2 county commissioners to the board after July 1st, but she was not willing to stop the entire project just because the city refuses to do it. Smith said the city would have to include 2 county commissioners on all of the current CRAs.

Despite the fact the city attorney Smith said he doesn’t think the city council will refuse the deal, the commission voted 4 to 2 to approve a plan in which two members of the county commission join the CRA and the county and city jointly appoint the CRA advisory board.

Commissioners castor and Sharpe were the two no votes.

For WMNF news, I’m Andrew Stelzer

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