The City of Tallahassee Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) has spent or committed over $27 million to redevelopment activities in two sections of town and the majority of this money has been spent in the last four years.
Under Florida law (Chapter 163, Part III), local governments are able to designate areas as community redevelopment areas when certain conditions exist. Examples of conditions that can support the creation of a community redevelopment area include, but are not limited to: the presence of substandard or inadequate structures, a shortage of affordable housing, inadequate infrastructure, insufficient roadways, and inadequate parking.
The City of Tallahassee has two distinct redevelopment areas, the Frenchtown/Southside Redevelopment Area established in June 2000, and the Downtown Redevelopment Area in June 2004. These areas are managed by the Community Redevelopment Agency, which is made up of five city commissioners and four county commissioners.
Community redevelopment activities are funded by property taxes from the community redevelopment area. Once an area is defined as a community redevelopment area, all future incremental tax revenue is diverted from the general fund to the CRA fund. The property tax in the CRA fund is then used for redevelopment activities in the respective area. Over the last few years, over $30 million has been diverted form the general funds of the county and city for CRA activities.
Florida law defines community redevelopment activities as those activities that eliminate and prevent the development or spread of slums and blight, or for the reduction or prevention of crime, or for the provision of affordable housing, and may include slum clearance and redevelopment in a community redevelopment area.
An analysis of the Tallahassee CRA spending, in the table below, shows that of the $27 million spent by the CRA, over $20 million has been directed to major development and land acquisition projects. Examples of these projects include College Town, the Walgreens, and the North American Properties student housing development.
CRA PROGRAM DISTRICT AMOUNT
Affordable Housing GFS $1,991,694
Commercial Painting GFS $44,232
Faade Projects DD $222,000
Faade Projects GFS $675,000
Land Acquisition Projects DD $2,100,000
Land Acquisition Projects GFS $4,962,000
Major Development Projects DD $6,948,000
Major Development Projects GFS $6,951,000
Major Infrastructure Improvements DD $1,100,000
Major Infrastructure Improvements GFS $1,274,000
Major Non-Profit Development Projects GFS $421,000
Major Studies DD $123,000
Major Studies GFS $313,000
Promotional Events DD $96,400
Promotional Events GFS $65,276
Public Art Projects DD $66,000
Public Art Projects GFS $53,000
Retail Incentive Loans DD $50,000
Retail Incentive Loans GFS $70,000
GFS-Greater Frenchtown/Southside, DD-Downtown
The table shows only $4 million has been spent on “major infrastructure” and affordable housing projects. Examples of these projects include infrastructure improvements in Frenchtown and the Goodbread Hills multi-family apartment development.
When Tallahassee Reports asked city staff about the appearance of millions being spent on projects that were not consistent with the legal definition of “redevelopment activities”, the response was that almost any project, except for a fire station, could legally be approved within a CRA.
CRA’s have been known to be used by politicians as a way to repay donors and help friends. In fact, in California, Governor Jerry Brown and the Legislature abolished CRA’s, where one journalist wrote that “elected officials view them as a rich uncle.”
CRA spending does have implications for taxpayers not residing in the community redevelopment area. For example, the tax dollars that are spent in the CRA are tax dollars that would have normally been used for general services. When these monies are diverted to the CRA, other taxpayers must make up the difference through higher taxes and fees or reduced services.
Tallahassee Reports will follow the developments of the Tallahassee CRA workshop meeting later this year. The workshop is designed to facilitate a discussion among staff and Agency members about the appropriate mission of the CRA.