Northwest Florida Daily News
April 21, 2019
Despite the benefits that community redevelopment agencies (CRAs) provide to cities across Florida each day – from public safety to infrastructure improvements – these agencies are widely misunderstood. This legislative session, bills have been filed in the Florida House and Senate (CS/HB 9 and CS/SB 1054) that seek to overhaul CRAs through extensive limitations. The legislation would make it more difficult for CRAs to be created and could terminate certain existing agencies by 2039, which will ultimately have a significant negative impact on economic growth and job creation across our state.
CRAs are created by local governments to improve areas that may have inadequate infrastructure, a shortage of affordable housing or insufficient roadways. Using public input, these agencies create plans to revitalize communities through projects such as improved roadways, buildings, economic and business activities, water and sewage systems, parking lots, garages, neighborhood parks and more.
A common misunderstanding concerning CRAs is how they receive funding. CRA projects are funded by tax increment financing, which takes a portion of existing property tax revenue from property value increases within the CRA district boundaries – increases that come from effective redevelopment projects. Tax increment revenues can be used immediately, saved for a certain project, or can be bonded to maximize available funds. They do not utilize federal or state funds and do not increase property taxes for area property owners.
As the City Manager of Fort Walton Beach, I am proud of the work that the Fort Walton Beach CRA is doing to improve our community. CRA projects such as the Soundside Apartments affordable housing development in which the CRA played an important role in providing funding for the infrastructure to replace 50 public housing units with 200 new apartment units for the area’s workforce; downtown pedestrian improvements along Miracle Strip Parkway SE including enhanced pedestrian signage and improved crosswalks; and the redevelopment of the Brooks Landing Waterfront Park make our city a more beautiful and vibrant place to live, work and play. The park includes shoreline restoration, improvements to the existing Alconese Avenue pier, and the addition of upland amenities, including landscaping, lighting, picnic tables, a concrete walkway, and educational signage.