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Columbia County Observer

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Lake City News

Twelve minutes that will change Lake City for the next 100 years

IBI's Kurt Easton addresses the Lake City Council
IBI's Kurt Easton explains the addition of the CRA area to the City Council. Left to right: Mayor Steve Witt; Councilman Jake Hill; Councilman George Ward; City Attorney Herbert Darby.

On Tuesday night, September 7th, the Lake City Community Redevelopment Agency, which is really the City Council wearing a different hat, approved an amendment to the IBI Group contract, the City's urban planning firm. IBI is now contracted to do a study to determine if the City should expand the CRA, effectively doubling its size. 

IBI's Master Planner Kurt Easton explained that the inventory of the downtown area was completed and that IBI's work was on hold after the public workshop because the community expressed a desire to expand north and south, doubling the size of the CRA. The north and south borders would be expanded to SR 100 on the north end and Baya on the south end.  (Go to map)

Kurt Easton makes a pointMr. Easton explained that a study would have to be completed and the City would have to find a necessity to expand the Community Redevelopment area's boundaries. He said it would take two months to do a data analysis and prepare the report, which would include IBI's recommendations on whether or not the expansion of the CRA is appropriate. 

Mayor Witt asked about the advantages of expanding the area. 

Mr. Easton: "Over the long run it gives you the opportunity to stabilize some of the surrounding neighborhoods... The private sector will capitalize on the other improvements that are taking place as part of your redevelopment effort to interject some private sector resources over time."

At a previous meeting there had been a question about whether or not the CRA boundaries and time frame could be expanded.

Councilwoman Moses studies the issue.
Councilwoman Moses studies the issue.

IBI's Easton turned the question over to Mr. Clifford Sheppard, the Florida Redevelopment Association's legal counsel for an opinion. The answer was yes, the boundaries and time frame can be expanded. (Mr. Sheppard's one page opinion can be found here).

City Manager Johnson opined: "The cost is minuscule compared to the potential benefit."

Councilman Ward asked: "This specifically targets the residential areas. “Are we talking about infrastructure as far as water lines - sewer lines - that type of thing?"

Mr. Easton: "There are a number of benefits. Depending on what comes through the public process -- they will in the neighborhood -- they will express their desire for what they would like to see.”

There was some confusion regarding the evening's proposal and the motion to support it.

Mr. Johnson made two attempts at an explanation regarding what the City Council was being asked to approve.

IBI's Mr. Easton (standing) and Mr. Kaira (seated)
IBI's Mr. Easton and Mr. Kaira wait for the Council to sort out the motion.

 Mr. Easton explained that the proposal on the evening's agenda regarding the IBI contract would not require a new contract, but an amendment to the existing one.

Mr. Johnson's third explanation went like this: "[We are] Just asking to authorize the amendment to the contract to include the scope of services as provided in this proposal for a blight study and that would be subject to the amendment to the contract as reviewed by the city attorney."

The City Clerk never read the motion into the record.

After the vote, which was unanimous, Mr. Easton told the City, "We will be moving forward as quickly as possible."

After the meeting, Councilman Jake Hill was pleased with the inclusion of the residential areas in the downtown redevelopment area. He told the Observer: "This is a good thing. The blighted residential areas should have been included in the CRA a long time ago. I am glad to see that the folks that live in this area of blight will be deriving a benefit from this."

Councilman George Ward, who originally was skeptical of paying for the additional services, told the Observer: It is a good thing and it is going to be bigger and better. We will be able to do some residential projects which will give the area a needed face lift.

Everyone the Observer has spoken with is excited and optimistic about the work of the IBI Group and a new future for the downtown of Lake City.

The meeting lasted only twelve minutes, but the potential for rebirth of the downtown is a-wish-come true for many of the long time and short time Lake City residents.

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