BRADENTON -- At Tuesday's work session, Manatee County Commissioners discussed the direction current CRA funds would go if the Southwest Tax Increment Financing (SWTIF) becomes effective on October 1, 2014. Some commissioners are still not convinced Ordinance 14-28 -- the order finalizing SWTIF -- has a tight enough lock on the $3 million being transferred from the two current CRA accounts into the SWTIF program.
In March of 2013, the county accepted a report from the Urban Land Institute (ULI), recommending the expansion of the current CRAs into a broader area of the southwest county, in order to provide greater incentives for redevelopment.
Tuesday's work session was designed to review the draft ordinance to further that process with a discussion about the obligation of keeping the remaining CRA funds dedicated to the properties of the dissolving CRAs.
Commissioner Robin DiSabatino and Commissioner Michael Gallen, who represent the districts in which those CRAs reside, were looking for a better guarantee than what was presented.
"I am not yet convinced," said Gallen, adding, "I would like to see it in writing."
Gallen, an attorney, said he heard a lot of the right stuff from the mouths of commissioners, but the verbiage in the ordinance was not clear enough to stand the scrutiny of time.
"What guarantee do we have that the next generation of commissioners will not interpret the ordinance differently and use the dollars as they wish? The ordinance needs to be more specific."
County Administrator Ed Hunzeker replied to Gallen with a rigid response: "We are impatient to get started in October. We want the money. We don't want to wait."
DiSabatino agreed with Gallen on the need for checks and balances in the ordinance and said, "We don't want to lose focus on the blighted areas."
I later asked DiSabatino what she thought of the Work Session. DiSabatino said, "I am encouraged that the administration and fellow commissioners realize the need to revitalize our urban core. I am looking forward to getting the beautification plan under way for south county projects. However, I am still looking out for the best interest of all of our residents."
The next stop for the ordinance will be June 3, before the BOCC for a public hearing on SWTIF Ordinance 14-28.
In July of 2014, the BOCC is scheduled to adopt Ordinance 14-28.
On October 1, 2014 the new SWTIF Ordinance would officially begin.
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