BRADENTON -- A week after voting to take over governing authority of the city's three community redevelopment agencies effective Jan. 1, Bradenton officials delved into the planning process Wednesday of what that means for the agencies and the CRA communities.
Under the existing structure, only the Central CRA board in East Bradenton is a sole entity complete with its own paid staff.
The 14th Street West CRA and the largest of the three CRAs, the Bradenton CRA, have been under the control of the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority.
When the transition occurs, the Bradenton City Council, with two other members, will sit as a single CRA board with complete authority over the three CRAs.
The council was publicly criticized for moving forward with the takeover without a plan.
Council members said they first had to decide to do it and then use the six months until the effective date to develop a plan. Public concerns centered around what role, if any, existing CRA boards would play, if public input would be lessened and what role the DDA would play.
Going into last week's vote, it was clear a new city economic development department would be created to be the administrative arm of the CRAs.
The DDA also has paid staff members whose futures remain unclear.
The city council Wednesday cleared up some uncertainty. It will move forward with creation of an economic development department. Its function in relation to other city departments, the DDA and the CRA board after the transition will be decided in future workshops.
According to City Clerk Carl Callahan, the immediate focus is to alleviate public concern and show the existing CCRA board it "will be a part of the syner
gy with you."
Councilmember Bemis Smith reiterated his plan was to keep the existing CCRA board intact in an advisory role. The council also agreed to create new 14th Street West CRA and Bradenton CRA advisory boards, which would allow the DDA to focus on downtown redevelopment.
The council also agreed to begin the legislative process at the state level to expand DDA boundaries to better address the growing urban core. Vice Mayor Gene Brown said once the council becomes the CRA board, it should routinely hold joint meetings with the advisory boards.
"There is an impression out there that we only show up for photo ops and that's not true," said Brown. "We do a lot behind the scenes. As elected officials, people don't always want to talk to us in a formal setting, so I think we need to all be at the advisory board meetings in those communities and hopefully the citizens will get engaged with us."
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.