110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
But Volusia County is set to change the rules
By Pat Andrews
posted Feb 22, 2013 - 8:57:42am
Orange City first started putting together its request for a Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) more than a year ago, and submitted a plan to the county in September.
Now, city officials are looking uneasily at a Feb. 5 letter from Deputy County Manager Mary Anne Connors.
Connors said the county wants another 90 days to ask questions about the proposed CRA, and six months after that to act on the proposal. The reason? The county is developing new CRA policies.
CRAs siphon off property-tax dollars into a special fund, to be used only for improvements in the CRA district. Those siphoned dollars include property taxes that would otherwise be paid to county government.
The idea behind CRAs is that, by concentrating improvement projects in a given area for a limited time, you ultimately increase property values in that area.
Because of those higher values, when the CRA expires and the property taxes start flowing back into the normal agencies, there should be more money to go around.
The Volusia County Council must approve any CRAs created in the county, even within city boundaries.
Because of the potential of CRAs to reduce county government’s tax income, County Council members want to proceed cautiously. They will look at potential revisions to the CRA process during their Thursday, Feb. 28, County Council meeting.
“We’ve spent over $100,000,” Orange City Council Member Bill Crippen said.
The application process included hiring a consultant to crunch numbers, and “hours and hours talking to citizens and business owners” about establishing a CRA corridor along U.S. Highway 17-92.
The vision for the heart of Orange City is a “vibrant, quaint urban Downtown Core,” according to the CRA plan, with commercial and mixed-use areas, along with affordable housing for people of moderate income, including the elderly.
The city wants to create a downtown area that would be friendly to pedestrians and tourists alike, but it will have to be done in phases.
Right now, Crippen said, “We don’t even have sewer.”
With Blue Spring State Park and the Spring-to-Spring Trail in Orange City, there should be a market of visitors to tap. Instead, Sanford and Seminole County are promoting visits to Orange City’s state park, and encouraging visitors to then return across the St. Johns River to spend their money in Seminole County, he said.
With proper development, ecotourism can be a big boost to Orange City, Crippen said.
“Orange City citizens pay about $3 million a year in taxes to the county,” he said.
In his opinion, the county should be willing to help Orange City residents, whose median income at $30,110 is far lower than the county average income of $46,311, he said.
Mayor Tom Laputka said Volusia County encouraged the city to develop the CRA plan, even hiring a consultant to crunch numbers and make projections of costs and future gains.
“We’ve done everything we were asked to do, and our timelines have been absolutely dead-on,” Laputka said.
The mayor said Orange City’s plans represent a good use of CRA money.
Most of the 15 CRAs in existence now are in the east side of the county. Altogether, they have cost county government $80.2 million in lost revenue since 1991.
DeLand’s two CRAs — Downtown and Spring Hill — account for $2.7 million of that.
It’s time for Southwest Volusia to be able to use the funding source, Orange City officials said.
Projections are for Orange City’s CRA to cost the county $99,696 in property-tax revenues over a 10-year period. Orange City government would lose $122,106 in siphoned-off city property taxes.
Deltona Mayor John Masiarczyk said he’s feeling more confident about the CRA situation, after meeting with County Council Member Pat Northey to go over Deltona’s request.
Masiarczyk said changes the county will probably make to CRA rules will probably be good. Those include putting time limits — maybe 20 years — on CRAs, and requiring cities to get bond money to help with redevelopment instead of waiting for funds to build up. A more concrete definition of “blight,” a required element for a district to qualify for a CRA, is also expected.
County Chair Jason Davis told The Beacon, “I’m not a fan of CRAs.”
It takes an enormous amount of money generated in economic development to make them worthwhile, Davis said.
While he’s not planning a move to nix CRAs, Davis has been talking to experts, and will have some suggestions for CRAs that he will unveil Feb. 28. The meeting will begin at 9 a.m. in the Frank T. Bruno Jr. County Council Chambers in the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Center, at 123 W. Indiana Ave. in DeLand.
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