An agency that has helped shepherd Downtown DeLand’s revitalization since 1984 by funding infrastructure improvements, providing grants to property owners and more will stick around for at least another 17 years.
DeLand’s Downtown Community Redevelopment Agency was established at a time when vacancy rates in the now-booming district were soaring above 50 percent.
A CRA is a tax-increment financing district, meaning it generates money from taxes on the increase in value of the properties within the district over the years, compared to a base year.
For Downtown DeLand, the base year is 1984, when the property in the district was worth a paltry $20 million. In 2018, values reached $47.7 million, leaving $27.7 million of taxable value for the CRA, generating $431,621 in revenue last year.
The CRA revenue generated from taxes on the increased value comes not only from city taxes, but also taxes that would have been paid to Volusia County, the West Volusia Hospital Authority, and other taxing authorities.
The taxing authorities still get paid taxes based on the 1984 value, however.
The one exception is the Volusia County School Board, which isn’t affected, and collects taxes as normal.
The CRA district was set to sunset at the end of the 2024-25 fiscal year, Sept. 30, 2025, but the DeLand City Commission voted unanimously to extend the life of the CRA through Dec. 31, 2036.
“Because of a number of things we’ve been discussing — the Old Jail, the potential apartment project we’ve been discussing down on Voorhis and Alabama — it created some dialogue, and through that dialogue, there was some recognition that we had this authority [to extend the CRA],” said Mayor Bob Apgar.
City officials said the extension would allow the district to plan for larger projects, like those that require the CRA to issue bonds, which typically require at least a 15-year time horizon.
“Over the last three, four, five years, we’ve not felt like we’ve had that flexibility, because we didn’t know what the termination date was,” Apgar said. “So, with any new projects, or anything we might want to do over the next two to three years that could be a long-term capital [project], we now have the flex to look at bonding.”
The action doesn’t require approval by the Volusia County Council, which now normally plays a role in the creation and modification of CRAs.
“During the ’80s, when the County Council voted to delegate their authority on the CRA, they delegated their full authority with regard to the Downtown CRA,” City Manager Michael Pleus said.
A recent project funded by the CRA was the Georgia Avenue Streetscape, which saw West Georgia Avenue spruced up with decorative pavers, new sidewalks at the same level as the road, drainage improvements, new lighting and other additions.
The project totaled $632,561, paid for in cash by the CRA and city, in part with money left over from the ill-fated White Challis redevelopment project, which would have seen a multiuse development constructed on the site of DeLand’s former YMCA at the corner of Woodland Boulevard and Church Street.
Debt possibilities aside, Apgar said he’s very grateful that the CRA is now at a point where it’s generating a healthy amount of revenue each year. That wasn’t always the case.
“I can tell you, I was very frustrated the first three or four years,” he said. ”We made all of these promises in the ’80s to the community that we were going to do things … and it was kind of frustrating after four years or whatever it was to do nothing.”
“The first improvement we ever did was the improvements to the parking lot along Alabama Avenue between Indiana and Rich,” Apgar continued. “We put in some decorative stuff — planters and whatever — and, I mean, it was a very small project, but it was at least something, trying to show the value of the CRA.”