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Sarasota Wednesday, May 9, 2018 2 years ago

County comfortable with proposal to end downtown CRA dispute

The city is seeking $2.63 million from the county to fund four specific projects. County commissioners are on board so far.
by: Cassidy Alexander Staff Writer

Sarasota County and the city of Sarasota are pursuing a new solution to an ongoing dispute over whether the county owes the city $5 million for the downtown Community Redevelopment Area.

The fix, borne from conversations between County Administrator Jonathan Lewis and City Manager Tom Barwin, includes four requests which require $2.63 million from the county — and county commissioners said they’re comfortable with it so far.

County Commissioner Nancy Detert emphasized how eager the county is to resolve the dispute. 

“We’re trying to make it be over,” she said. “I don’t love all the items, but I love most of the items.” 

First, the county would contribute $1 million for an affordable housing project. The city would contribute 25 lots that could be used for affordable housing, and $500,000. Details would need to be worked out about how the program would look.

Second, the county would give the city $1 million for immediate emergency erosion repairs at Lido Beach. It would help stabilize the beach while a long-term renourishment project is being finalized. (This will not contribute funding to the possible dredging of Big Pass.)

Third, the city requested that the Marion Anderson Brownfield Assistance interlocal agreement be extended. The agreement for the county to provide $500,000 expired in 2017, but the city requested about $70,000 of the funding. It’s asking for an extra five years to get the rest.

County Administrator Jonathan Lewis

Fourth, the county and city would split the $400,000 cost associated with creating a parking lot at the former city police station site, off Ringling Boulevard.

“We’ve come to something that I think promotes the board’s priorities as well as initiatives in the city of Sarasota,” Lewis told county commissioners on Wednesday.

Since the dispute first came to light in 2015, the city has threatened litigation against the county, sent a list of six requests for the county to meet in lieu of the $5 million and sought payment of a lower sum. The county denied each request.

In December, County Commissioner Charles Hines presented a list of ways to solve the dispute, and the revised list of four requests came after conversations between the city and the county.

“The items we’ve included in the proposal are aligned with the priorities of both the city and county, and they address issues we’ve been dealing with for a long time,” City Manager Tom Barwin said in a statement. “This agreement will create a fresh foundation for the city and county to collaborate on the important challenges facing our region, from transportation to affordable housing, climate change and diversifying our economy.”

County commissioners have been eager to resolve the issue in a way that works for both sides. 

“My goal is to try to resolve this year the CRA issue in a positive way,” Hines said last year. “Not in a ‘we win’ or ‘they win’ — we all will.”

The commission gave Lewis unanimous permission to continue solidifying specific agreements on these four requests.  

I’m Cassidy. I cover news in Sarasota County, Siesta Key and the schools, plus community events if they involve dogs. I’m a Florida native, and University of North Florida graduate with degrees in journalism and graphic design. Reach me at 941-366-3468 ext. 304.

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