RUBONIA -- Some relief could be coming to the historic Rubonia neighborhood.
As a way for Rubonia to become eligible for federal Community Development Block Grant funding, county staff is proposing a neighborhood action plan be done on the neighborhood off U.S. 41 between Palmetto and Interstate 275.
"We think any kind of planned effort with the community to look at the realistic feasibility of some of the improvements will be advantageous," said Cheri Coryea, county Neighborhood Services Department director, adding it will help with funding eligibility with the 2020 census.
Due to increased development of mobile home parks around the Rubonia area, coupled with the lack of responses from Rubonia residents to the 2010 census, the area became ineligible for federal service funds. In the 1990 and 2000 census, the Rubonia area was eligible for CDBG funding.
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After unsuccessful attempts by the county in 2011 and 2013 to convince the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development CDBG program to review the area's eligibility, everyone thought it was worth another go around, Coryea said.
The neighborhood action plan will include a review of "demographic information, land use and zoning, environmental conditions, building conditions, neighborhood assets, public participation and slum/blight determination," according to agenda materials.
If approved by the commission at Tuesday's meeting, consultant Wade Trim, the county's CDBG consulting firm, will evaluate the findings to determine whether the Rubonia area meets the state definition of a blighted area. The $21,500 study will take four months.
Coryea said if Rubonia qualifies as a blighted area, which officials are fairly certain it will, the county can include Rubonia in its CDBG consolidated Pplan possibly as soon as the 2017-18 fiscal year for federal and state dollars.
"We are hoping for some infrastructure improvements," she said. "I think they would like to see security lighting, street improvements, maybe drainage improvements."
The Wade Trim project team will draft a strategic action plan to outline priority projects, estimate costs for improvements, time for completion, potential funding and responsible parties.
"In order to arrest and reverse the identified blighting conditions in the Rubonia neighborhood, a number of redevelopment activities will likely need to be undertaken," according to Wade Tim.
While dollars available through these programs are limited, Rubonia is "certainly an area that definitely needs attention," Coryea said. "We certainly want to put projects in that the citizens want and need."
Coryea said she hopes the commission will approve moving forward with the plan.
"I'm hopeful that if we can get this started only positive things can come from it," she said. "They are such great people there. We would really like to see a positive collaborative plan for them."
Morris Goff with the Rubonia Community Association called the plan "long overdue."
"This is one of the main things we've been asking for," he said. "Community development funds would really help us get over the top. There's been a lot of projects that have been neglected there by the county and we want to try to get some of them done."
Lack of sidewalks, ditches, drainage improvements and cleaning up vacant lots are priorities, in addition to reopening the Rubonia Community Center, Goff said.
"The community is not very optimistic because they've been going through this fight since the late '60s," he said. "It hasn't gone very far. I still see the daylight. If we are going to get the community development funds, that is a big help."
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter@Claire_Aronson.