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Ormond Beach Observer Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012 6 years ago

U.S. 1 to become a CRA?

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The Ormond Beach Planning Board  found the U.S. 1 corridor as showing conditions of "blight" and recommended it be designated as a Community Redevelopment Area.

BY MATT MENCARINI | STAFF WRITER

The area along U.S. 1 in Ormond Beach could get a makeover, if the Ormond Beach City Commission heeds a recent Planning Board recommendation.

The Ormond Beach Planning Board held a public forum Oct. 11 to discuss the results of a study recommending that the U.S. 1 corridor be declared a Community Redevelopment Area. The months-long study, conducted by city staff, determined enough of the corridor showed conditions of "blight," causing social and economic"distress" to the area, to warrant a CRA designation.

There were some concerns raised by residents at the meeting, though, about funding for the improvements, potential property condemnation and plans. But no objections have been received from residents after notices of the findings were issued by mail, according to the city's Planning & Building Department.

The board also ensured residents that no property would be condemned or taken over by the city.

“We’re not putting policy in place,” Planning Board member Doug Wigley said. "We’re not getting involved in code enforcement. We’re just determining whether in fact we have some blight in this area and whether we need to apply for a CRA.”

The funding for the improvements, if approved by the City Commission, will come from property taxes in the CRA area.

A base property tax will be set, and any additional tax revenue raised above that base level will be reinvested into area improvements. However, federal and state grants might also be secured.

Although the city is far from determining specific projects, Planning Director Ric Goss said improvements would likely be made to transportation, sidewalks and trails. He added some residential areas along U.S. 1 are cut off from the corridor, which also could be something to address.

“We see people walking beside U.S. 1, going up towards Tomoka Estates, (and) there is no pedestrian area,” said Tomoka Estates resident Butch Malo. “I can see from the study that something like that is extremely valuable, as opposed to somebody walking on the side of the road.”

The study concluded that the state of blight impaired “sound growth,” leading to decreased property values, a strain on city services, an environment conducive to criminal activity, a poor market environment and high costs to residents in the form of higher insurance premiums and lower appraisals for homestead properties.

According to Florida Statute, a blighted area constitutes “a serious and growing menace injurious to the public health, safety, morals, and welfare of the residents of the state.”

The city’s study found eight of the 14 conditions of blight, more significantly in the south area of the study, stretching from Wilmette Avenue to the city’s southern border.

The south area of the study was characterized by high vacancy rates, a high percentage of aging structures and a presence of adverse environmental conditions, among others unfavorable characteristics.

While the north area, from Wilmette Avenue to the county's northern border, showed fewer characteristics of blight, the study found public transportation, sidewalks and stormwater drainage to be inadequate.

A second public hearing  is set for Nov. 20, during the City Commission meeting.

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