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FRA head strikes back: ‘Redevelopment is about the people’

With the House of Representatives now trying to take out community redevelopment agencies (CRAs), the head of the Florida Redevelopment Association is fighting back.

“Community redevelopment agencies breathe new life into communities that have been neglected or forgotten, and their impact goes far beyond the buildings and roads they help develop,” said Carol Westmoreland, executive director of the association.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has made it a 2018 Legislative Session priority to rein in the state’s more than 200 community redevelopment agencies.

The chamber already is moving a bill (HB 17) requiring, among other things, more transparency and board member ethics trainings.

The legislation, ready for the House floor in January, was followed by a House Media Team video slamming CRAs as vehicles for local government to pay for their “pet projects.”

“Ever heard of Community Redevelopment Agencies?” the video begins. “Chances are you haven’t, but chances are you’re paying for one.

“Community Redevelopment Agencies, or CRAs, were meant to clean up slums and blighted neighborhoods. Instead they became another vehicle for local governments to take your money and spend it on their pet projects. That’s why your Florida House is is introducing legislation to bring accountability and transparency to CRAs in Florida.”

But the “work of our local CRAs is about the community and those living in it; redevelopment is about the people,” Westmoreland said in a statement.

“These efforts should not go unnoticed, unrecognized or misrepresented, as CRAs are dedicated to our citizens and restoring our communities to make them come alive.”

Westmoreland also provided talking points backing the associations’ benefits:

— “Florida’s community redevelopment agencies (CRAs) serve to revitalize communities through projects such as streetscapes and roadway improvements, building renovations, neighborhood parks and more.”

— “CRAs are created by local governments and funded by tax increment funding, which captures tax revenues resulting from increases in property values attributable to an agency’s investment in an area.”

— “Unfortunately, Florida’s CRAs are currently under attack by proposed legislation that will enact crippling regulations in an attempt to impede the creation of new CRAs and phase out existing programs.”

— “SB 432 and HB 17 aim to impose a laundry list of revised requirements that will have an enormous negative impact on the survival of local CRAs.”

— “Without local CRAs, the progress that has been made in redevelopment will come to a halt; property values will drop, and communities will suffer.”

Finally, she referred to a video of “how CRAs are working to improve local communities,” produced by the Southeast Overtown/Park West CRA.

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