Delray Beach: CRA boundary changes assessed, put on hold

Delray Beach: CRA boundary changes assessed, put on hold

14:54 01 August in Press Room

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Delray Beach would get about $1.1 million a year in extra tax money under a proposal that would lop off the property east of the Intracoastal Waterway — and the taxes that come from it — now assigned to the city’s redevelopment agency.

Community Redevelopment Agency staffers computed that number after comparing 1985 property values with the 2012 values of more than 2,000 acres east of the Intracoastal assigned to the CRA. The comparison showed increases for some parcels as high as 200 percent.

“We were looking at a difference of nearly 30 years, so the increase in valuation was no surprise,” said Diane Colonna, CRA executive director.
The plan to change CRA boundaries, the valuation analysis and a discussion of shifting the money to the general fund were to be discussed at a workshop on March 6. It was canceled March 5 when the city decided to wait until a new city manager was on staff. Louie Chapman started work April 1.

The CRA was established by the city in 1985, long before the downtown transformed into a bustling hub of glitzy restaurants and trendy shops. The goal was to get rid of “blight”: fix streets and other infrastructure, renovate buildings, build parks — anything that helps the area targeted in the agency’s district. Its boundaries generally include the central business district, adjacent neighborhoods east of I-95 between Lake Ida Road and Southwest 10th Street, and much of the area north of downtown between Swinton Avenue and the Intracoastal Waterway to Boynton Beach.

The formula used to determine funding for the CRA is based on a percentage of current value of district property, less than what it was valued at in 1985, when the agency was formed. Colonna said that because CRA financing is based on the value of the total property in the district, each parcel needed to be researched.

City Commissioner Angeleta Gray asked in November that the city research cutting from the district the area east of the Intracoastal Waterway. Gray said the city needs the money to provide services, and that there are a number of areas in the CRA that are not slum or blighted.

The state law that created CRAs defines slum generally as “an area that has physical or economic conditions leading to poverty, or crime because there is a predominance of buildings that need rehabilitation,” and blight is defined as the area where buildings, streets and other structures are deteriorating, causing unsafe conditions, whether due to poverty or not.

“Of course, changing the boundaries — either removing an area or adding an area — is the decision of the City Commission,” said Colonna. “Should we have to deal with cuts to revenue, though, we’d have to look at cutting a number of programs that we fund.”

The CRA prepared detailed revenue and program-funding information, along with the analysis of the property valuations, in advance of the postponed meeting.

Colonna said that because the tax increment financing is calculated each year on properties in the entire district, all property records had to be included to estimate the TIF generated by just one area — the area east of the Intracoastal, proposed to be cut. If the area were cut from the district, CRA funds would be reduced by about $1.7 million — $1,082,736 would revert to the city’s general fund, and $683,165 would go to the county’s general fund. Palm Beach County Commissioner Hal Valeche said he hadn’t followed the proposal or the possible impact on the county’s budget.

Colonna said that not only does the CRA provide infrastructure improvements, but also money goes toward city programs and some staff positions. That includes more than $1 million for the “Clean and Safe” program of policing, landscape and code enforcement; $91,750 for a project engineer position for environmental services; and more than $600,000 for tennis tournaments sponsorship.
To change the boundaries, the City Commission would have to pass an amendment to the CRA plan.

Changing the boundaries of a CRA in Florida is not unusual, said Carol Westmoreland, executive director of the Florida Redevelopment Association, a nonprofit for the state’s more than 200 CRAs.
“It’s critical that CRAs stay fluid, actually,” she said. “If a city is progressing and making improvements for the quality of life of its citizens, then a natural shift will occur.”

Former Mayor Tom Carney and commissioners Gray, Adam Frankel and Al Jacquet, and former commissioner Christina Morrison, did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the proposal.

Doug Smith, who was serving as Delray Beach interim city manager through March, said that though the proposal was not on any official meeting agenda, the issue was expected to be addressed in April. A new mayor and a new commissioner took office March 28, in addition to the new manager beginning his job in early April.

“I would say that it’s definitely a proposal that’s still out there,” Smith said. “It just made sense to delay it.” The CRA has addressed criticism in recent months for its support of the Art Garage, a nonprofit entertainment venue.