Lifelong Rubonia resident Charles Miller Sr. has been waiting for the day when his neighborhood gets sidewalks, improved drainage and other improvements.
That day may finally be near: A neighborhood action plan has determined that Rubonia meets the state definition of a blighted area.
“This is something we’ve been working on and asking for years,” the 66-year-old said. “My life will be complete when I start to see the county doing something, giving back to our community.”
Wade Trim consultants of Tampa were hired by Manatee County to develop the Neighborhood Action Plan as a way for Rubonia to become eligible for a federal Community Development Block Grant. According to the 2016 Rubonia census taken as part of the plan’s development, 88 percent of all households meet the 2016 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s definition for low- and moderate-income households.
“Corrective actions must be taken to reverse the demonstrated pattern of deterioration and to prevent worsening of blight conditions,” according to the draft action plan, which details needed projects and a timeline for completion. Some of the work would begin as soon as Oct. 1, and many of the projects are mapped out over the next six years.
Residents in the neighborhood off U.S. 41 between Palmetto and Interstate 275 say Rubonia has long been neglected by Manatee County with its lack of sidewalks and ditches. But Rubonia had been ineligible for federal community development funds due to residents’ lack of response to the 2010 census, as well as increased development of mobile home parks around the Rubonia area.
Besides CDBG funds, other potential funding sources identified in the draft action plan include the proposed half-cent sales tax and the county’s general fund.
“It opens up the funding availability of the CDBG fund,” said Commissioner Larry Bustle, who represents Rubonia. “Part of our Community Development Block Grant plan, we can include Rubonia whereas we couldn’t do it before. The pathway will open up where we can spend some money on perhaps sidewalks, streetlights.”
The action plan, which is now available for public review before going to the commission on Aug. 23 for approval, confirms what the county thought was true: Rubonia meets the definition of a blighted area, according to Debbie Deleon, with the county’s neighborhood services department.
“There is really a push to help not only physical aspects of the neighborhood, but also well-being of community,” she said.
After the commission approves the plan next month, the plan will be submitted to HUD for review.
“Once it is returned, then we can basically start to work,” Deleon said. “There is a need. They are part of Manatee County and we help neighborhoods throughout the county.”
Derrick Randall, who grew up in Rubonia, said it is not surprising that Rubonia is considered blighted.
“I’m just glad it has been brought to the forefront so Rubonia can get the resources and funding it needs to be brought back to the place that it can be,” he said. “It is very encouraging. It is uplifting.”
Miller said he plans to go door-to-door to all his neighbors to tell them how important these projects would be for Rubonia.
“It is just so important,” he said. “We’ve been begging for this. It is the time for this here. I am all for new changes. We need this. We do.”
Input on Rubonia Neighborhood Action Plan
Copy of the plan will be at the Central Library, Palmetto Library and Rocky Bluff Library for review until Aug. 23
Submit comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or 941-749-3029 ext. 3482