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Date of Issue: June 25, 2008

ScenicWAVES to advise on redevelopment district

Commissioners explored the creation of a citizens group to help direct the revitalization of Bradenton Beach’s commercial district - and then decided the appropriate group already exists.

The existing ScenicWAVES group will serve as an advisory committee to the community development agency, which presently is the city commission, on changes in the CRA district, mapped as the area between Sarasota Bay, Cortez Road, the Gulf of Mexico and Fifth Street South.

The city established the CRA 16 years ago to revitalize the “blighted” district with Community Redevelopment Block Grant money, other grant sources and incremental tax assistance.

The CRA received about $400,000 this fiscal year, which was largely dedicated to paying off a loan for the reconstruction of the city pier. By statute, money channeled into the district must be used for improvement projects, not maintenance.

During a meeting last week, the commission briefly reviewed a proposal from city projects and programs manager Lisa Marie Phillips to establish a five-member CRA advisory board consisting of two citizens and three business owners.

The proposal included a set of guidelines, including that members must be registered voters in the city and not serve on other city boards or committees and that the committee would hold public meetings conducted under Robert’s Rules of Order.

The concept of a citizens advisory group was first broached during an educational meeting on the CRA in May. City officials held the meeting at the request of local business owners who wanted to learn more about the district, especially the spending of CRA money and investments in public parking.

Phillips agreed to submit a proposal for a citizens advisory committee during that meeting.

However, during last week’s commission meeting, Commissioner Janie Robertson suggested that another committee seemed redundant.

Robertson said the planning and zoning board and the recently merged ScenicWAVES committee, which advises on improvements along scenic Gulf Drive and the waterfront, already deal with CRA matters.

“The people who are most interested are already sworn members of our boards,” Robertson said. “The people involved in this already are involved in ScenicWAVES.”

“I like what you’re saying,” Bradenton Beach Vice Mayor John Chappie said.

The commission then reached a consensus that ScenicWAVES should advise on the CRA.

“That makes a lot of sense,” Phillips agreed.

“And,” Robertson said, “if there’s a stumbling block, bring it back.”

When the CRA was established in 1992, the downtown district, which the CRA plan called Historic Old Town, was considered blighted. The 1957 Anna Maria Island and Cortez bridges that had fueled development in Holmes Beach had resulted in a decline in Bradenton Beach, according to the CRA master plan. The new bridge in Braenton Beach replaced the crossing at Bridge Street, which became the city pier.

“The city pier became the last inheritance of the original bridge - still jutting out 660 feet into the bay, but looking tired and shopworn from years of benign neglect,” the plan stated.

“For 35 years, from 1957 to 1992, Bradenton Beach has limped along the edge of a prosperous Island economy.”

The city, formerly known informally as Cortez Beach, had been a bustling community somewhat depended on vice for commercial enterprise in its earliest years. With the end of Prohibition, commerce turned to the tourism trade and “Bridge Street developed into stores and services on both sides of the street as every automobile entering the Island drove through the midst of the town.… From 1922 until 1957, Cortez Beach was the economic center of the Island.”

The creation of the CRA, with an infusion of cash from grants and dedicated property tax dollars, was intended to rejuvenate old town’s slump.

The goals set forth in the CRA plan called for creating a traffic pattern to bring people to Bridge Street, attracting new investment in commerce, partnering with organizations and businesses to promote historical, social and recreational programs, improve and increase public parking and secure historic district status for the community.

 

Commission OKs new franchise agreement

The Bradenton Beach City Commission June 19 backed a new franchise agreement with Florida Power & Light, the electricity provider in the city.

The commission approved a first reading of an ordinance and scheduled a second reading and public hearing on the agreement for July 2.

The city’s existing 30-year agreement with FPL ends in August.

City attorney Ricinda Perry said the new agreement provides for approximately the same revenue for the city - 5.9 percent of revenues generated from FPL’s sales in Bradenton Beach.

She also said the agreement will provide some flexibility in the event the city wants to take a different course with supplying citizens with electrical service, such as generating its own.

“Who knows what energy will be like in 15 years?” Perry said.

In other business, the commission:

  • Approved the installation of a concrete pad and fence for a storage area for the Rotten Ralph’s restaurant at the Historic Bridge Street Pier. A used cooking-oil container will be relocated to the site.
  • Approved the $3,171 repair of a sanitation truck.
  • Approved payment of a $10,500 invoice from M.T. Causley for building official services.
  • Approved payment of a $4,878 invoice from Lewis, Longman and Walker for legal services.
  • Approved payment of an $888 invoice from Ralf Brookes for legal services.

The next city commission will be at 7 p.m. July 2 at city hall. The commission voted to change the date from July 3 due to the fireworks event planned by the BeachHouse Restaurant in the city that night.