Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news for working families.

Lake City News

Lake City Community Redevelopment
Working to work out the bugs for a better downtown

At Monday's Lake City Community Redevelopment Authority meeting, Christmas came a little early to nine Lake City Façade Grant applicants, as Lake City handed out $49,098.26 in Façade Grant awards.

CRA Director, Jackie Kite came well prepared for her presentation to the City Council.

Community Redevelopment Director, Jackie Kite's informative presentation was marred by the fact that no one from the public could see the photos, maps, drawings and other material that the City Council was using to make their decisions.

City Manager Wendell Johnson told the Observer that after the first of the year the City will be looking into having an overhead projector on hand for City Council meetings.

Windows, painting, signs, doors, security doors and planters were some of the improvements that were awarded on Monday night at the Lake City Community Redevelopment Authority (CRA) meeting. The largest amount of money awarded was to Nancy and Vinod Malhotra for "multiple store fronts." Mr. and Mrs. Malhotra are receiving a payout, $12,782.72, of which $9,586.72 is from the City and $3295.58 is their money. According to the City, the properties are located at 523 – 537 – 547 Marion Avenue.

Lake City pays 75%

click spread sheet to enlarge and see awards

In the world of government the term "Matching Funds" is not necessarily 50/50. However, in the world of facade improvement grants, most communities require that 50 percent of the grant be put up by the applicant. In Lake City, that is not the case.

CRA Director Kite said property owners in Lake City were not willing to come up with a 50 percent match and very few people applied for facade grants.

Painting alone is not an eligible expense

Read the Facade Grant Programs of Ocala and Titusville. (points of interest underlined by the Observer).

In most communities painting alone is not an eligible expense and neither are security doors.

The second largest payout, $12,385, of which $9,288.75 is City money, is going to Lamar and Lee Ann Hires to paint their two buildings known as Drive Rite. They have also been approved for a security door.

Craig Salley, who contracts with the County and City, is the managing member of Executive Park Complex, LLC, had a façade grant approved for $5,130. The City portion of this is $3,847.50 and no estimates were included with the packet that went to the City Council. Mr. Salley is getting his building(s) pressure washed and painted.

Normally, pressure washing and painting are considered routine maintenance. Not in Lake City.

Now you see it – Now you don't - The Vann Amendment

In 2006, the City Council adopted a Facade Grant Policy, which made sense and appeared to take its rules from the best of the Facade Grant Policies, while protecting the character of the Downtown and the interests of the City and its residents. It is not clear why this policy was jettisoned for what is now, clearly inferior.

In most communities across the nation facade improvement programs require that the façade be maintained for a minimum amount of years (usually 5 years) and that if it is not, the grant or some portion of it must be repaid.

Lake City used to require that a facade improvement be maintained for three years, which is two years below the average.

In August, Marc Vann was awarded a $5,000 grant for a building that was for sale and had a city lien.

On December 6, 2010, in what could have been called the Vann Amendment, the City revised its April 2010 Facade Grant Improvement Policy. The following language was removed from the policy:

 In accordance with this agreement, the award recipient shall agree to maintain the improvements, including landscape materials, for a period of three (3) years from date of grant award.

It is unknown who made the suggestion to remove this requirement from the policy. It was Now You See It - Now You Don't.

The Dec 6, 2010 revised Lake City Facade Grant Policy is here. The Observer has red/blue lined the changes so it is clear what what changed. The City did not do this. Removing sections 8 and 9 is bad government.

City Councilman Jake Hill was the only Councilman who voted against this last minute change.

Now, if Mr. Vann avails himself of the grant and sells his property he will owe the City nothing.

No applicants objected to maintaining their improvements

There were nine applicants approved for grants on Monday, December 20th. All applied for the grants before the language change and none seemed to have an issue with maintaining the improvement for three years.

If the owner sells a property six months after the completion of a facade grant improvement, Lake City does not get any reimbursement of the funds expended. 

CRA Director Kite explained that some communities put a lien on the property requiring the owner to maintain the property for a certain amount of years and then the lien is forgiven.  Ms. Kite said that there are only one or two communities in the state that do this.

Notwithstanding the City's screwy Grant Façade Improvement Policy, everyone is excited about the future of Lake City's Downtown and the work IBI is doing for the City.

CRA Director Kite shared her optimism about the Community Development area this way: "I think everybody's picked a really good project for their property and when other people around them see that they've spruced up a little bit, I hope other people will take advantage of it. I feel that this first round of façade improvement grants may be an inducement for other people to improve their properties and I hope that the work that gets done will make some improvement to the area."

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

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