Bradenton officials move CRA takeover forward to final vote in June

BRADENTON -- The Bradenton City Council unanimously voted Wednesday to forward a resolution and ordinance to a final June 24 vote to essentially dissolve the governing authority of three community redevelopment agencies in the city and put them under control of the council.

The CRAs include the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority, which oversees the 14th Street West and Bradenton CRAs, which is the downtown area. The Central Community Redevelopment Agency Board is separate and covers neighborhoods along Ninth Avenue East.

The council is being urged to slow down until the city has a more definitive plan, specifically in how it will affect the DDA. Michael Gallen, Manatee Chamber of Commerce vice president of public policy, said the chamber recommends the city slow its process.

"At this time, the chamber opposes dissolving the CCRA and DDA as authorities over the CRAs," said Gallen. The chamber "feels enough community discussion and engagement has not yet occurred."

Suncoast Community Capital's Tim Dutton also cautioned against haste noting real change comes from within a community's residents first.

Ward 5 Councilman Harold Byrd Jr. said the nuts and bolts of the city plan in consolidating the CRA boards can be worked out, but Wednesday's vote was to determine whether the council wanted to move forward.

Ward 4 Councilman Bemis Smith agreed, saying: "We have to delineate a starting point."

Ward 1 Councilman Gene Gallo has been quiet in recent discussions, which changed Wednesday.

"Those boards are not responsible for the taxpayers of this city," said Gallo. "The final answer is you either accept responsibility for taxpayer money or you don't."

Mayor Wayne Poston has been a vocal opponent of making the change and also

said he feels council is moving too fast.

"My sense is that you need to be at ready, aim, fire, and I sense we are at ready, fire, aim," he said. "The city council wants to control the money. As the ones responsible that makes sense. But the people out there that are the taxpayers want to have a voice and I don't want to have a chilling effect in the neighborhoods these CRAs serve."

Smith has laid out his vision and a big part is creation of an economic development department with a director as a city department head. Smith has advocated to retain the DDA board and pursue legislation to expand its boundaries.

Part of his plan includes giving the agency $250,000 a year. While that funding would help the DDA remain stable at current funding levels, the agency is due to begin receiving more than $1.3 million annually in 2018 when an interlocal agreement with Manatee County expires.

Smith did note in early March he wanted the transition completed before the agreement expired. It was struck under former DDA leadership to keep Manatee County offices downtown when officials wanted to relocate from the city. The DDA agreed to help pay development costs.

Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.