Commissioner Gil Ziffer, the liaison between the CRA Board and the Homeless Shelter, reported that the ideal situation would be for the CRA to work with a private developer to sell the shelter property. This would enable the shelter to change locations.
It was clear The CRA Board was not interested in offering formal support until other issues revolving around the Shelter were resolved. And while most Commissioners indicated general support for the Shelter, no vote was taken.
Most of the meeting was devoted to a discussion about the designation of the North Monroe corridor as a CRA district. Last year the CRA Board approved moving forward with creating a North Monroe CRA. However, since that time, the nine member board has seen four new members join. The new members are City Commissioner Scott Maddox, and County Commissioners Dozier, Lindley and Proctor.
Three citizens offered public testimony supporting the creation of a North Monroe CRA district. Michael Houston, representing a North Monroe Business group, Tom Shelley, a representative for the Ramada Inn located at I-10 and North Monroe –which will soon be a Radisson, and Jim Stiles, the owner of the land that is currently home to the Tallahassee Mall.
A CRA district designation is desirable by business owners in a specific area because additional tax revenues from that area cease going to the general fund to cover core government expenses, and instead, go into a special fund that can only be spent on projects within the CRA district. There are currently two CRA districts.
Mr. Stiles, while arguing that a new CRA district designation would help encourage the redevelopment of the struggling mall into a “new destination”, received an interesting question from Commissioner Lindley. Commissioner Lindley asked if “any part of the Tallahassee Mall could be used as a Homeless Shelter.” Mr. Stiles had no response.
The extensive debate that ensued among the eight Commissioners (the Mayor was not present), revealed that the change in the make up of the board has changed the outlook for a CRA district in the North Monroe corridor.
Commissioner Scott Maddox led the discussion by stating that “creating more CRA’s was bad governance” and “makes swiss cheese out of our tax code.”
Commissioner Nancy Miller, did indicate that there were “operations on North Monroe that were too big to fail”, but had concerns about lost revenues to the City’s general fund.
Commissioner Gillum spoke of the successes with the other two CRA’s and urged caution against stepping “away without further information.”
And Commissioner Proctor asked why North Monroe and indicated other areas were more deserving of the CRA designation.
The overall sentiment was that a new CRA district was a bad idea because it would take future revenues away from the ability of the city and county to fund core government functions. The final decision on the proposed CRA district will be made at a future meeting.
Also during the meeting, the CRA Board, led by Commissioners Dozier and Miller, asked staff to schedule a presentation by the Performing Arts group. Commissioner Miller was particularly interested in the presentation and stated that her position on this issue was “evolving”.