Click to support Item 6D on Tuesday’s BOCC agenda to amend CRA Ordinance

Virginia Sherlock

Local attorney and civic activist Virginia Sherlock asks the public to please let commissioners know that you support Item 6D on Tuesday’s BOCC agenda to amend the Community Redevelopment Agency ordinance. [You can contact all commissioners by sending one email at: http://www.martin.fl.us/portal/page?_pageid=339,1&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL&lnfi=&rgg=&pgg=344&sa=&sc=&emid=6672&c_name=Contact all commissioners ]

Until just two years ago, the CRA was comprised of the members of the Board of County Commissioners.  Neighborhood Advisory Committee members made recommendations and suggestions regarding CRA projects and programs, which were approved (or not) by members of the BOCC sitting as the CRA Board.

The pro-growth majority changed the ordinance in 2010 to establish a “super CRA Board” of unelected, unaccountable persons — most of them associated with the development community — to make decisions regarding the community redevelopment areas throughout the County, even when those decisions directly affect or benefit the appointed Board members who own properties within the redevelopment areas. 

This unelected board has broad powers that include the power to buy, sell, lease or give away property within a neighborhood planning area, demolish or remove buildings or other improvements from property within a neighborhood planning area, enter into contracts not exceeding $250,000, apply for and accept grants and funds for redevelopment activities. 

These powers and duties should be exercised by the elected Board of County Commissioners who are accountable to citizens of Martin County.

Please let commissioners know that returning the powers and duties of the CRA Board to the BOCC is appropriate and important to maintain transparency and accountability to citizens who live or work in or adjacent to community redevelopment areas. 

The purpose of a CRA is to eliminate blight (where there are a substantial number of deteriorated or deteriorating structures in which conditions, as indicated by government-maintained statistics or studies, are leading to economic distress or endanger life or property and where other enumerated situations are present, such as high crime, unsanitary conditions or public safety hazards), ensure availability of affordable housing, and redevelop and rehabilitate older downtown areas. 

These conditions are not present in the redevelopment areas in Martin County, and these goals have not been the goals of the unelected CRA Board.  It’s time to return the power to the elected BOCC who are fully accountable to voters of Martin County.

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