Manatee residents are nervous about CRA dissolution, Gallen says

skennedy@bradenton.comJanuary 29, 2014 

MANATEE -- People are scared and uncomfortable about the proposed dissolution of neighborhood redevelopment areas, and are concerned that money already accumulated for their renewal projects will be spent elsewhere, said Manatee County Commissioner Michael Gallen.

The commission plans to dissolve two special redevelopment districts, called Community Redevelopment Areas, and include them instead as part of a larger redevelopment district that includes much of southwest Manatee.

"All these things that CRAs do, they're very concerned about the dissolution," Gallen told the commission during its regular meeting Tuesday at County Administrative Center.

"I think we can expedite these projects, and we'll be able to get more done because we'll have more dollars," Gallen said of the newly-proposed financing arrangement for the single district.

But he qualified that by saying he wanted assurances in writing that current CRA projects would be protected.

Under county proposals, two redevelopment districts, the 14th Street West Community Redevelopment Area and the South County Community Redevelopment Area, would be replaced by a larger, single redevelopment district called the Southwest Area Tax Increment Financing District.

Gallen sought language included in the dissolution process that would lock in continued funding and give priority to current redevelopment areas, he said.

For example, the South County CRA has about $2.5 million in its kitty with which its advisory board hoped one day to build a community center, officials have said.

Its board members worry the money will evaporate during the transition process.

Gallen's comments generated discussion among his fellow commissioners.

"You have a commitment from the board that we intend to proceed with what's in the plans" of the CRAs already, said Commissioner Carol Whitmore.

"Anything new, we have to get public input," she added.

Commissioner Vanessa Baugh agreed, saying, "I think we've been pretty clear about where we all stand."

She suggested waiting for a written plan from the county staff before making any changes.

For months, a detailed plan has been underway, and everything will be brought together for the commissioners to review at the same time, County Administrator Ed Hunzeker said.

The two current redevelopment areas extend from the Bradenton city limits south to the Sarasota-Manatee gateway area. The new Tax Increment Financing District would stretch from Manatee Avenue on the north to the Sarasota County line on the south, and from Sarasota Bay on the west to U.S. Hwy. 301 on the east. Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter@sarawrites.

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