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 officials are proposing a Neighborhood Action Plan be conducted for the neighborhood, which is located 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," Cheri Coryea, the county's neighborhood services department director, said, adding this will help the Rubonia area with potential funding eligibility with the 2020 census.
Because of the 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 both the 1990 and 2000 census, the Rubonia area was deemed 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, which is the county's current CDBG consulting firm, will evaluate the findings to determine whether the Rubonia area meets the state's definition of a blighted area. The study, which will take four months, will cost $21,500.
Coryea said if Rubonia qualifies as a blighted area, which officials are fairly certain that it will, then the county can include Rubonia in the county's future CDBG Consolidated Plan possibly as soon as the 2017-18 fiscal year for both 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."
According to the scope of service from Wade Trim, the project team will draft a Strategic Implementation Plan/Action Plan that outlines priority projects; estimate costs for improvements; time for completion; potential funding sources; 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 the scope of service.
While the 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," she said.
Coryea said she is hopeful that 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."
Adding sidewalks, improving drainage and cleaning up vacant lots are some of the priorities as well as 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.