by Steven T. Thompson, Marco Island City Manager
On March 29th, the Collier County Board of County Commissioners met with the Marco Island City Council to discuss the status of the Community Redevelopment Authority (CRA) proposed for the Town Center Commercial District on Marco Island. The use of a CRA for this commercial district is one of many issues that the City Council and County Commission discussed in 2009, and this joint meeting provided an opportunity for both to review and discuss the use of this tool in this City.
A CRA is a separate entity from the City or the County, created to implement community redevelopment within a specified area. The ability for cities and counties to create a CRA is provided under state statutes, and more than 140 CRAs have been created to revitalize limited areas in this state. There are three very successful CRAs already existing in Collier County, including CRAs in the Bayshore section near Naples, a CRA in Immokolee, and the CRA with the Fifth Avenue overlay in Naples.
The present proposal by Marco Island is to create a CRA over the Town Center Business District, with public improvements to be identified in an as-yet-undeveloped Redevelopment Plan. Participants in the City’s 2009 planning charrettes recommended several potential projects, including the following:
- Upgrade Utilities to Accommodate New Development
- Bury Overhead Utility Lines
- Create Public Spaces and Pedestrian Connections to Create a Walkable Business District
- Improve Mobility and Access with a Parking Deck/Garage and Improved Transit or Trolley Service
- Complete Intersection Improvements
During the joint meeting of March 29th, both City and County staff presented information on the use of CRAs, and the City reviewed the Finding of Necessity which documents the finding that nine of the eleven criteria required in Florida are met within the Town Center area. The discussion was very thoughtful and comprehensive and, in summary, the comments indicated that both the City Council and the County Commission generally agreed that CRAs have been successful in improving properties and property values within the present CRAs. There were a number of legitimate concerns about financing of projects, including the possible expansion of additional CRAs throughout Collier County. Members of the County Commission also noted that the CRAs created for the Bayshore and Immokalee Areas both include special tax districts to fund improvements, with a higher level of taxes for the properties within those districts. Commissioners encouraged the City to consider use of a special tax district either in lieu of or in addition to the creation of a CRA on Marco Island.
The next steps in the process include second reading of an ordinance creating the CRA and establishing City Council as the CRA Board, scheduled for April 5th. If approved by City Council the City will move forward with development of both a Master Redevelopment Plan and a Financial Analysis of the CRA. These two steps will help define what the CRA will try to accomplish and the specifics of financing for the project.
For more information, please contact the Community Development Department at 239-389-5000. The CRA studies and information, including a quick information sheet (Q&As on CRAs) is available on the City’s website at www.cityofmarcoisland.com/Public_Documents/CRA.