Tampa Bay Times
Oct. 14, 2017
For the first time in the 17 years I have lived in Brooksville, every first-floor commercial space on Main Street is rented and open for business. The area’s look has changed from that of a rundown ghost town to a professional business district. Our Good Neighbor Trail has encouraged hikers and bikers to enjoy exercise and each other’s company.
These improvements largely came courtesy of Brooksville’s Community Redevelopment Agency, or CRA. Now this important program is in danger, because of a proposal likely to be debated during the next session of the Florida Legislature.
More than 220 CRAs operate in Florida. These are local initiatives, authorized under state law, that allow communities to target blighted areas for redevelopment. The money comes from something called “tax incremental financing” — basically, the agency captures any increased tax receipts arising from business growth attributable to its investments in the targeted areas.
Critics, pointing to a handful of apparent abuses of these programs, have called for stricter auditing and oversight, ethics training for authority leaders and other reforms. But any attempt by the Legislature to impede the creation of new CRAs, or to phase out existing programs, would halt the hard-won progress cities like Brooksville have been making toward revitalizing our neighborhoods and economies.
Brooksville’s CRA district encompasses 104 acres of the historic area of the city, where homes and commercial buildings date to the 1850s. The program focuses on historic preservation and beautification.