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Longboat Key Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015 6 years ago

Special assessment could cover Circle garage costs

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During the next four weeks, the city will take its first steps toward implementing a special assessment to fund a parking garage near St. Armands Circle.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

As seasonal residents left the area for the summer, St. Armands Business Improvement District Co-Chairman Marty Rappaport hunkered down to search for a way to pay for a parking garage.

Rapport has been a leading advocate for the creation of a parking garage near St. Armands Circle, a project for which the Sarasota City Commission offered some preliminary support in April. With the assistance of city staff, Rappaport now believes one funding source for the garage is nearly secured: a special assessment on property owners in the commercial tourist district.

On Monday, the City Commission will hear an update on the overall scope of the proposal, which would also include streetscape changes along John Ringling Boulevard at the request of residents.

At that meeting, and subsequently at a November meeting, the board will also consider two procedural items that would allow the creation of a special assessment district, pending the approval of the property owners in the area.

According to Rappaport, the assessment would not be a flat fee based on the size of each property, which is how special assessments have worked in the past. Instead, a consultant will review the proportional value each property derives from the garage, assessing a fee to the owner accordingly.

“The city had to have a study done about what percentage of the benefit each business gets from the parking garage,” Rappaport said. “Obviously, a restaurant or a real estate office is going to get a lot more benefit than, say, a trinket shop.”

BID Co-Chairman Gavin Meshad raised one point of concern: As the special assessment district works to pay down any bond, the use of a property along the Circle could change. If a restaurant became a business that derived less benefit from the garage, how would it be assessed?   

“It’s going to be what’s there at this point in time,” Rappaport said.

“And then you’re stuck with it?” Meshad questioned.

Beyond that, however, the group expressed optimism regarding the project. With early cost estimates for the garage itself coming in around $11.5 million, other funding sources beyond the special assessment are needed. Already, St. Armands stakeholders have indicated they’re willing to accept the implementation of paid parking to contribute additional money to the project.

Rappaport hopes he and city staff can provide an update regarding the project to St. Armands landowners, merchants and residents later this year — including a detailed summation of how the funding will work.

“It’s going to be the merchants and the landowners that are going to have to accept a special assessment,” Rappaport “I think we’ve got support, and I think the city is certainly putting a lot of effort into making this happen.”

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