The Self-Sustaining, Self-Funding CRA?

 By Guest Writer, Susan Lloyd

It has been brought to my attention that some people feel that the CRA – Community Redevelopment Agency- a government agency – is good for communities, that it is self-sustaining and brings money into a community.

The examples given were the success in Miami and Delray Beach. Parts of those communities – the ones in the CRA boundaries – look so much better with numerous new businesses that would not be there, I was told, if not for the CRA. Miami being a huge metropolis that visitors flock to from all over the U.S, if not the world, entices people with its nightlife, beaches, shopping and cruise ships at its port. Delray entices visitors with its beaches, shopping and festivals. Because of that, their tax revenue has greatly improved, and, perhaps, their CRA is indeed self-funding.

In both of those communities the blighted areas have improved but at what cost. Step out of the CRA boundaries where the blighted areas have improved and walk into the areas that the unwanted have relocated to. They still exist in Miami and Delray but are now out of the CRA boundaries. Does the CRA now enlarge its boundaries to include more of the town? Once the CRA improves an area – at what point is the CRA no longer needed? How much property does the CRA end up owning?

My concerns and questions are not about Miami and Delray Beach, they are about the CRA and our town, Lake Park. All the improvements in the world will not have visitors flocking to our town to help with tax revenue. We do not now, nor will we be able to in the future, offer to visitors what the big towns can offer.  And another thought: Is that what our town wants?

When will the CRA become self-funding?

How many more years will it take?  When there are newly formed blighted areas outside of the CRA, will the boundaries grow? Our town is small enough that the whole town could be in the CRA. Yes indeed, hypothetically, our town could be purchased and controlled by the CRA. So far the CRA has acquired the following properties: 725 Foresteria Drive, 711 Foresteria Drive, 761 Foresteria Drive and 800 Park Avenue. How much more Lake Park property is the CRA going to own and what are the plans for those lots?

 800 Park Avenue, 711, 725 and 761 Foresteria, as well as part of Alleyway…before purchase/renovation

800 Park Avenue, 711, 725 and 761 Foresteria, as well as part of Alleyway… after

800 Park Avenue (Art on Park Gallery) set to close according to Town Manager at last week’s CRA/Final Budget Hearing Meetings

Foresteria Drive property after purchase, circa Summer 2011

700 Block of Foresteria Drive recently

The CRA purchased property-an apartment building-supposedly a “crack house”- tore it down and made a community garden. As lovely as that sounds and looks, it is not bringing in tax money. The tenants, forced to move, it has been rumored, have relocated in Lake Park to set up shop again, outside of the CRA boundaries, so business as usual.

The CRA Money Trail

The CRA budget is something worth reading. The dollar figures are amazing. Back in 2009 they spent $955,069.00 to improve an alleyway.

A satisfying (near million dollar) purchase?

That is almost 1 million dollars at a time we, the town, owed the CRA over 2 million dollars, which we are still paying off.

Just to name a few, here are some of the items of interest on the CRA budget:

One Park Place still sits empty many years later

Contractual Services: Ground maintenance, Chris Wayne Associates at $81,600 plus Tree Huggers at $10,900 for the areas zoned CRA, a total of $92,500. That breaks down to $7,708/month. That seems very high to me. Have they thought about taking in some bids to cut that cost? Doesn’t the town have a lawn maintenance crew? Someone needs to break that down into how many square feet they actually maintain and how much they are getting paid per square foot.

$72,050 for Administrative Fees-need that one explained-it goes into the General Fund for services rendered.

$1,000 for postage and shipping

Rental and Leasing– $550/month for the CRA office – that amount does not include utilities, insurance, cleaning, etc.

$2,000 for the Town Attorney who is already making an amazing salary from the town of Lake Park.

The list goes on and no one questions these expenditures for an organization that is self-funding. Who is really paying for most of these expenditures? I have been told that the TIF payment, in part, is paid for out of General Funds, yet it clearly states on our Town’s Web page that the CRA is self-funding.

I guess we can stay with the mentality that if the Town Manager and the Commissioners feel that the CRA is a wonderful opportunity for our town and they are the people we voted for and trust their judgment (not the Town Manager, she was hired) than gosh-darn, golly-gee they must be right.

Every time I ask a question about the CRA – if I get an answer – it makes me want to ask more questions.

Citizens, do you realize that our town has committed to the CRA for 30 years!? Does it take 30 years to clean up a blighted area? It seems to me the area has improved enough that the CRA should no longer be needed. With the overhead of the CRA, which includes employees with large salaries, insurance, office rental, equipment, lawn maintenance – the list goes on –

– How will it ever be self-funding?