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CRA advisory board a good idea

October 18, 2013
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Cape Coral City Council is expected to take a final step Monday in the creation of an advisory board for the city's old "downtown" business district overseen by the elected board sitting as the Community Redevelopment Agency.

Council will consider the appointment of five volunteers to the newly created "South Cape Community Redevelopment Advisory Board."

The new panel will assist the agency with the Community Redevelopment Act and Community Redevelopment Plan as well as make recommendations concerning improvements within the district, land use planning, development activities and funding priorities.

The creation of the advisory board, and the appointment of members, is a good step forward for a couple of reasons - especially if council gives priority to those with a specific link to that business district as suggested by the ordinance.

One, district projects are funded by tax dollars generated from property owners within the CRA. The funding method is called tax increment financing, which basically is the difference between the tax base at the time the district was created or expanded, and current valuations.

Like properties throughout the city, the district took a hard hit when the bottom fell out of the real estate market and values plummeted. That's the primary reason the city absorbed CRA oversight - money dried up to fund operations as an independent agency with tax dollars barely generating enough to pay salaries and other operational costs.

Establishment of the advisory board puts some control back in the hands of the stakeholders - CRA residents, non-residential CRA property owners, retailers and merchants within the district, and its restaurant, bar and club owners. Bankers, contractors and real estate brokers with an interest in the area also are to be given prime membership consideration.

Restoring the voice of those whose tax dollars are earmarked for projects that, by statute, must benefit the district, makes sense.

Two, stakeholder engagement, especially solicited input from those who live and work with the issues, is the best source of information for projects and problems.

Business issues in the South Cape are not necessarily the exact same issues affecting, say, the businesses along Pine Island Road or Del Prado Boulevard.

Small business reaction to the controversial sign ordinance as its provisions apply to A-frame signs amply demonstrates that.

We look forward to the establishment of the new board, which will meet monthly.

Again, we call for strong stakeholder engagement and urge council to make its appointments with a hard eye on the ordinance's suggested makeup but this sounds like win-win to us.

-Breeze editorial



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