It wasn’t quite the midpoint of the Downtown Community Redevelopment Area Extension Study Committee’s work, but David Merrill figured Tuesday’s meeting was close enough to halfway to step back and take stock.
Merrill, the chair of the downtown CRA extension committee, wanted members to consider the bigger picture before they delved into any details. The committee will present a report on whether the downtown CRA should be extended to city and county commissioners in January.
Throughout the board, a consensus emerged: For the CRA to be an effective tool and accomplish useful projects, there needs to be a clearer vision for the future of the areas it covers.
Merrill said downtown should be viewed as a success, and that the CRA should work on new areas such as the North Trail and land around Payne Park. Although the expansion was well supported, other committee members were reluctant to move the CRA away from downtown entirely.
Committee member Ernie DuBose said downtown was an attraction that needed redevelopment funds to continue to draw people.
“If we don’t agree that Sarasota, downtown, is the engine that makes our machine tick, we’re wasting a lot of time,” Dubose said.
Merrill said county and city commissioners might not be in favor of expanding the CRA, because the CRA draws tax dollars from property in its area that would otherwise go into the general fund.
At its Sept. 24 meeting, the committee will discuss a slate of options for an extended CRA — including the area it covers, how it will be governed and its ultimate goals.
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