This session, Florida’s community redevelopment agencies (CRAs) are being targeted for an “overhaul” to institute reforms related to their operation. However, proposed bills in the Florida Senate and House, CS/CS/Senate Bill 1054 and CS/House Bill 9, go too far to limit the creation of new agencies, and to limit their terms. This proposed overhaul of CRAs stems from a lack of understanding surrounding what these agencies do and how they operate.
CRAs are created by local governments to revitalize blighted or forgotten areas through projects such as residential and non-residential development, streetscapes, roadway improvements, building renovations and more. CRAs do not use state or federal funds, and instead are funded by tax increment financing. The tax increment used for financing projects is the difference between the amount of property tax revenue generated before the CRA designation and the amount of property tax revenue generated after the CRA designation. This system utilizes locally generated funds and provides specific public services without increasing or levying any new taxes.
The planning process for the New Port Richey CRA Redevelopment Plan relied heavily on input from the local community through roundtable discussions and surveys of community residents. Over the years, the CRA has been successful with implementing a variety of redevelopment projects such as the enlargement Sims Park, improvements to the Orange Lake Monument Trail, and renovations to the Recreation and Aquatic Center. As a New Port Richey City Council member and a CRA board member, I believe in the work of our local CRA and recognize its enormous contributions to our community. New Port Richey CRA initiatives encourage economic growth, new business creation and beautification, leading to a more desirable and thriving community for residents, visitors and business owners.
CRAs breathe new life into communities across Florida whether that is through large-scale development or through minor visual improvements. Without local CRAs, the progress that has been made in redevelopment will come to a halt; property values will drop, and communities will suffer. The time is now to call on Florida lawmakers and urge them to protect Florida’s CRAs and the important work they do for our communities. I encourage you to reach out to state legislators and voice your support for CRAs to ensure that they are left intact. By raising our voices as New Port Richey residents, we can help preserve these valuable tools.
The state has long been providing taxing powers to private developers who continue to create new Community Development Districts, allowing them to construct new infrastructure for new communities. What possible argument could be made for restricting the ability of existing cities to have access to the same opportunities for financing that are so liberally provided to create urban sprawl? The need for redevelopment and the success stories of CRAs should speak for themselves.
Peter Altman is New Port Richey City Council member and CRA board member. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.