CRA Advisory Committee votes 5 – 2 to address City Commission Tuesday night regarding Forward Fernandina funds

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm

Reporter – News AnalystMisc - Boat, City Hall, Waterfront 014

The Fernandina Beach Community Redevelopment Agency Advisory Committee (CRAAC) met on February 18, 2013 at City Hall to discuss several items as part of their regular business meeting.  They reviewed responses from the Ocean Highway and Port Authority to questions they had submitted to get a better understanding of potential areas for cooperation in riverfront development.  They also discussed the possibility of expanding the physical area included in the existing CRA or creating a second CRA to encompass lots along the 8th Street corridor not included in the Historic District.

But the topic that drew the most discussion was the Fernandina Beach City Commission’s (FBCC) vote at its last regular meeting on February 5, 2013 to table a resolution supported by the CRAAC to reset the CRA base year and extend the CRA’s life to 40 years.  CRAAC members believed that part of the reason for the FBCC’s desire to delay action on this recommendation was rooted in their lack of understanding about the nature of a CRA in general and concern that the integrity of the trust fund would not be maintained.  CRAAC members seemed in agreement that a workshop was essential to the FBCC’s understanding of these matters.

Railroad CrossingsSome CRAAC members expressed concerns that a vote at tomorrow night’s regular city commission meeting to return money borrowed to fund Forward Fernandina projects might work against any near term development efforts in the CRA.  Projects to be funded by the remaining Forward Fernandina funds include repairing railroad crossings at Ash and Centre Streets, opening the railroad crossing at Alachua Street; creating a quiet zone; and installing or improving infrastructure west of the railroad.  At least one developer, who has gone through the city’s permitting process, has said that the creation of a quiet zone is imperative to his moving his plans forward.

CRAAC Chair Mike Zaffaroni expressed his concern that the FBCC might vote to return funds before completely understanding how important they are to jumpstarting CRA development.  To that end, the CRAAC voted to formally address the FBCC at its meeting tomorrow night requesting that the FBCC delay any vote to return money until the CRAAC can make a comprehensive presentation on the CRA to the FBCC to help them better understand the purpose of the CRA, the legal safeguards to protect the funds collected, and the relationship between the city and private developers in any public private partnerships created to spur development in the CRA.  The motion passed on a 5-2 vote, with two CRAAC members believing that there is no relationship between the Forward Fernandina vote to return money and the CRA issues.  Commissioner Arlene Filkoff is the FBCC’s non-voting liaison to the CRAAC,   CRAAC member Scott Moore, president of the Historic Downtown Merchants Association, will present the CRAAC’s motion to the FBCC tomorrow night.

The CRAAC is hopeful that a workshop with the FBCC can be scheduled between now and the March 5 regular FBCC meeting, when the motion to expand the CRA’s life and reset the base year is scheduled for consideration.

February 18, 2013 5:56 p.m.