Bradenton Beach agency offers to fund beautification projects

Money is available for beautification projects in the Bradenton Beach community redevelopment district.

At an Aug. 7 meeting of the city community redevelopment agency, members voted 7-0 for a resolution establishing a grant program for business or residential property owners and tenants in the district to apply for up to $4,000 toward enhancing the appearance of their property.

The CRA promotes restoration, growth and tourism for the district — bordered by Cortez Road, Sarasota Bay, Fifth Street South and the Gulf of Mexico — by funding capital improvement projects with incremental tax revenue from Manatee County after the area was declared blighted in 1992.

The CRA includes the mayor, city commissioners and two appointed members, restaurateur Ed Chiles and David Bell, a full-time resident of the district.

CRA Chair Ralph Cole, a commissioner, said the grant program allows the agency to incentivize improvement on a residential and commercial level in its next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

Treasurer Shayne Thompson said the CRA has a $20,000 fund to draw from for the grants.

The resolution establishes grant funding for exterior improvements, including landscaping, public rights of way adjacent to a private development, signage, decorative facades, painting, murals and public art, front porch, as well as work to comply with the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act.

The CRA exempted national franchises and properties from the grant program that do not pay property taxes.

The resolution also prohibits grant funds from being spent on temporary fixtures, structural foundations, interior improvements and security systems.

To be considered, people must submit to the CRA the application form, a copy of the property deed or lease, a description of the property and project, project budget, preliminary work schedule, photos of existing conditions and surroundings, site plan or survey, and, if applicable, a preliminary landscaping plan.

Applicants who are tenants also must submit signed and notarized authorization for the improvements from their landlord.

In order to receive reimbursement, approved applicants must submit to the CRA invoices from a contractor or vendor for the work and proof of payment. Cash payments may not be reimbursed if the CRA cannot verify the payment was made.

Additionally, CRA staff must conduct site visits confirming improvements have been completed before reimbursement payments are made.

Cole said the building department should administer the grant program since improvement work may require a construction permit. He added the CRA should waive application fees for people who meet with building official Steve Gilbert to apply.