POLL: Marco Island CRA delayed, but not denied

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— The Marco Island City Council heeded a recommendation by the Community Redevelopment Agency advisory committee regarding the proposed Town Center CRA on Monday.

The 19-member committee recommended council delay a decision on the creation of a CRA for two years. Council approved that recommendation, but at least one councilman foreshadowed that council may not actually wait two years to spruce up its commercial district.

“Adopting this recommendation does not tie our hands,” Chairman Frank Recker repeated throughout Monday’s discussions.

Members of the committee, including its chairman Chuck Kiester, as well as other city leaders and residents, warned early-on that the size of the committee would stifle it. Following several meetings, many more agreed that the number of members presented a problem.

The intent of approving so many members was to increase participation and understanding, council members said initially. The CRA proposal was becoming increasing controversial at the time.

Committee member Keith Pershing, who owns Island Automotive within the proposed 250-acre CRA, said the size of the committee caused “a lot of confusion and chaos.”

Several members said the greatest challenge was following the Sunshine Laws, or open government laws, that restrict committee members from discussing committee business outside an advertised public meeting.

“We have to be able to talk to each other and exchange ideas,” said Amadeo Petricca. He recommended the committee members keep working together informally by forming their own little group after council disbands the formal committee.

City Planner Kris Van Lengen said that other reasons that members voted for deferment of the CRA included the likelihood that property values will continue to decline for another year or two, a desire to know more about what the plan for the Town Center would be and a lack of understanding of all the financial implications for taxpayers inside the CRA district and outside of it.

CRAs are generally a funding mechanism to make improvements within an area. Tax increment financing allows for the tax dollar increases caused by increased property values to be reinvested in the district. It works best when property values are on the rise.

Collier County had risked losing millions of tax dollars over the years, perhaps putting a burden on other city and county taxpayers, because a larger percentage of the taxes within the CRA would be used for planned improvements within the district.

City Councilman Larry Magel said he was disappointed because he thought the committee would investigate the actual financial implications and identify needed improvements in the Town Center.

“The committee was taken over by people who were against it as opposed to people working to come to a logical conclusion,” Magel said.

Van Lengen agreed, but added that expert consultants take several months and charge a lot of money to try to decipher the financial implications.

Planning Board member David Caruso offered his tip for future success with a CRA.

“I think the next time we pull this trigger, have a plan ... A plan that actually looks at where we’re going,” he said.

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Comments » 2

ajm3s writes:

Mr. Caruso is asking the most basic question that has not been answered and is the crux of the issue of a successful CRA: What is the plan or at the bare minimum what is the intent of the plan?

How can you discuss a financial plan if you have not identified what you actually wish to accomplish. See the way I look at it, the requirements set by state statute to create a CRA fall short in assessing the need for a CRA. The specifications and locations of all deficient properties should be coupled with the desired plan that the city as determined with its citizenry or at the least those whose property will be impacted.

And since the intent of a CRA is to revitalize a specific area, it would be nice to actually have a market need to fill this improved area with higher tax revenue.

Is there actually a market study? Or feasibility study? Again, private industry is very proficient at evaluating these things to determine the feasibility and commercial success. Private investors are a bit finicky about evaluating risk and they generally start with a plan.

This CRA thing does not start with a plan, it starts with a "finding of necessity" to justify "blight".

I believe the area identified on Marco Island is far from blighted. Period. Therefore, the justification for many is primarily financial redistribution of county monies to Marco Island, which in itself may be a good thing, but I for one am not enamored with this whole "redistribution of wealth" even if its in a relatively wealthy city.

RayPray writes:

Why not simply turn Track K into this CRA, then dump the whole Jaxson Lab there?

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