THE ISSUE: Inverness CRA expansion.
OUR OPINION: Approval promises to make Inverness even better.
The foresight of Jim Sanders converted open pastures into the development of Sugarmill Woods, known for its unique natural greenbelt. Stan Olsen’s imagination transformed an abandoned limestone quarry into a world-class golf course. And the farsightedness of Sam Tamposi created the Villages of Citrus Hills, that’s among the nation’s top 50 master-planned communities.
Their ability to see into the future distinguishes them as visionaries who contributed immeasurably to making Citrus County a desired place to live. Joining these local visionaries is Inverness City Manager Frank DiGiovanni, who has guided Inverness’ revitalization with the forward thinking support of the Inverness city council.
Never content with the status quo and always envisioning the future, a March 2014 consultant’s report was the catalyst for DiGiovanni’s proposal to expand the city’s Community Redevelopment Area (CRA).
Noting the removal of blighting influences is essential for the city to remain competitive in the economic marketplace, the report recommended the city’s existing CRA district be expanded to include the Citrus Memorial Hospital (CMH) area, plus areas near Whispering Pines Park and the White Lake Drive industrial park.
Although county government officials and some expansion area residents contend the area does not have blight, blighting influences are not limited to substandard or inadequate structures. As set forth in the state’s Community Redevelopment Act of 1969, creation or expansion of a CRA is warranted when a shortage of affordable housing or inadequate infrastructure, roadways or parking exist.
The city council’s vote to expand the CRA is a smart move. With CMH now on the city’s property tax rolls, it will allow the city to particularly address inadequate drainage and parking, as well as beautifying areas around the hospital. This focused use of the added CRA tax dollars promises to make a greater difference with more visible results than would county government’s shuffling of the hospital’s tax dollars.
For those residents who fear the expanded CRA is a precursor for seizing their homes under eminent domain, city officials are publicly on record affirming the city has neither plans nor the desire to seize any properties in the expanded CRA. Furthermore, Chapter 2006-11 amended Chapter 73, Florida Statutes to prohibit a CRA from exercising eminent domain authority.
As for the residents’ concern that the identifying of blighting influences could result in lower property values, nothing could be farther from actuality, given the positive impact of the CRAs across the state and the city’s laudable revitalization track record.
Nevertheless, city officials should alleviate the expressed concerns of affected residents by meeting with them on a periodic basis to keep them apprised of the CRA’s specific plans, since moving the city into the future requires both clarity of vision and community support.