Hillsborough Commisioners support CRA with Tampa by Mitch E. Perry

06/21/06

Hillsborough County Commissioners today approved the Central Park Village Community Redevelopment Agency, or CRA with the City of Tampa.

But concerned that Tampa City Attorney David Smith isn’t sincere in agreeing to discuss the possibility of adding 2 County Commissioners to the CRA, they approved a 2nd motion that says they will go to a Judge for a joint declaration to decide on that .

The plan to redevelop the public housing project and surrounding areas in downtown Tampa hit a snag 2 weeks ago, when it initially came before the Commission to give its blessings to the City of Tampa’s administration.

But Commissioner Tom Scott stunned nearly everyone that day by listing a series of demands which he said would be needed for his support – including having 2 Commissioners added on to the CRA, which he indicated is now legal and possible because of a recently passed bill in the state legislature.

The County Commission supported his requests, which put it before the Tampa City Council last week. There, the Council accepted many of Scott’s requests, but upon advice of City Attorney David Smith , rejected the request of 2 Commissioners on the CRA.

But Today the Commission went ahead with the proposal, without adding 2 Commisioners to the CRA …But before they did, a defensive Commissioner Tom Scott reiterated why he acted like he did 2 weeks ago (roll tape#1o.q.�uh, disparity�)

Scott has been blasted by the editorial pages of both the Tampa Tribune and the St. Petersburg Times, not so much for his request, but for the last minute timing. But he went over a time line today indicating that the final presentation of the CRA did not come to the Commision until Friday June 2nd, some 5 days before the County Commision would have their one and only vote on the issue.

And as perhaps a way of indicating that the personal attacks against him have been unfair, he alluded to other Commissioners in Wednesday’s meeting who reacted strongly against certain measures, yet they would not be singled out like he has been (roll tape#2 o.q.�what was before us�)

Bitter feelings between the City and County led to the demise of a much more ambitious proposal to redevelop the Central Park Village Housing Project and surrounding area in January of 2004. That time, it was the County that ended that bid.

But Scott’s proposals do have support the County Commission, with the thesis being that the County is giving up potential tax revenues by agreeing to the CRA, but hasn’t had any influence in the past..

Commissioner Brian Blair picked up Scott’s mantle, referencing a St. Petersburg Times article that said that the CRA’s have cost the County tens of millions of dollars in the past.

Commissioner Kathy Castor said the real work now begins between the Tampa Housing authority and the lead developer, Bank of America – and that they allow the public to have involvement (roll tape#3 o.q.�some other way�)

The Commission then voted 6-0 to support the CRA.

But clearly, there is a lack of trust between the County and City…And Commissioner Ken Hagen said he wanted to bring the issue up before the Attorney General (roll tape#4 o.q�attorney General�)

But Commissioner Ronda Storms – who is also an attorney – realized that Smith would probably not abide by such a request, because it would be non-binding – as she challenged Smith if he would accept the ruling (roll tape#5 o.q. “no�)

That then led Commissioner Storms – with assistance from County Attorney Renee Lee – to ask for a declaration of judgement from a Court to decide on the issue of allowing County Commissioners on to a CRA – This is Attorney Renee Lee (roll tape#6 o.q.�different arena�)

The Commission then voted to support that motion…Tampa City Attorney David Smith said he was happy to join the County on that joint request.

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