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Date of Issue: September 24, 2008

Commission agrees to expand CRA

Commissioners approved a request to expand the Bradenton Beach board that governs the community redevelopment agency, the catalyst for erasing blight in the city’s historic district.

The Bradenton Beach City Commission unanimously supported the request to expand the CRA board by two citizens during a meeting Sept. 18 at city hall.

The request came from the city’s ScenicWAVES Committee, which the commission made an advisory committee on CRA matters earlier this year.

The first CRA matter ScenicWAVES took up was a recommendation from businessman and resident David Teitelbaum to expand the CRA board, which currently is the city commission.

Teitelbaum presented the committee’s request to the city commission last week, maintaining that expanding the CRA might create new opportunities and broaden the CRA’s vision.

“We feel that the CRA is very important,” he said. “And Bradenton Beach is very, very special.”

The ScenicWaves proposal, which Commissioner John Chappie incorporated into a motion to approve, called for adding a resident in the district to the CRA and a businessperson in the district to the CRA.

Chappie said adding citizen participation to the board was not unusual for CRAs in the state.

Commissioner John Shaughnessy, who seconded the motion, said, “I think it’s a pretty good idea.”

He too hoped expanding the CRA would bring more ideas to the dais.

The details of the expansion will be drafted into a resolution for consideration by the commission at a later date, said city attorney Ralf Brooks.

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 district is mapped as the area between Sarasota Bay, Cortez Road, the Gulf of Mexico and Fifth Street South.

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 Bradenton 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 had been a bustling community somewhat dependent 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.

The CRA received about $400,000 in the 2007-08 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.

The proposed 2008-09 budget, shows CRA expenses projected at $566,100, with $550,000 to be directed to payments on the loan to restore the pier.

In other business at the Sept. 18 meeting, commissioners:

  • Approved payment of a $2,937.55 invoice from attorney Greg Hootman.
  • Approved payment of a $4,085 invoice for an annual software support and protection contract.
  • Approved payment of a $5,796.88 invoice for August building services from M.T. Causley Inc.
  • Approved payment of a $1,800 invoice for an annual emergency satellite phone service contract.
  • Approved special event permit requests for the West Coast Bike Rally Poker Run Oct. 12, the Hideous Hawaiian Shirt Luau on Oct. 25, a series of arts and crafts shows at Coquina Beach to benefit the Ronald McDonald House and a series of Thieves Markets to benefit the Anna Maria Island Privateers charitable work. (See separate story).
  • Approved placement of “No overnight parking” signs at public parking spaces by the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

The next regular city commission meeting will be at 7 p.m. Oct. 2 at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N. The agenda includes a review of proposed changes to the city’s comprehensive plan from the evaluation and appraisal report.

A meeting for a final vote on the city’s budget will take place at 7 p.m. Sept. 24 at city hall.