Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake City News

Lake City moving ahead with redevelopment
Columbia County playing catch-up

David Kraus, was left holding the bag for the County's inattention to the Community Redevelopment Process.

David Kraus, former Lake City, City Manager and recently hired Columbia County Sr. Staff Assistant, appeared before the City Council CRA Public Hearing last night, with a letter to the City from the County Commission. The County explained it wanted data on the financial impact of the expansion of the CRA area and the specific criteria which was used to expand the boundaries. The County also requested information regarding the Tax Increment Fund (TIF) millage rate. The County thought TIF froze the millage rate. This is not the way Tax Increment Funding works.

During the last County Commission meeting on March 17, County Manager, Dale Williams, told the County Commission that the only reason that he could find for the County to object to the expansion of the CRA boundaries was to "use competing policies and goals as a statutory objection."

County Chairman Jody Dupree, voiced the following:

"If the TIF fund had a frozen millage and that's how it was based on, so it was frozen at a point in time, for the base year when it was formed. If they bring this new area into the TIF, where does this base lie? That should be a question, because that's where the real impact's gonna come for what impact we do get... There are certain requirements that the City has to provide to the County and they never forthcoming with that information."

Councilman Ward begins the conversation

Last night, after Mr. Kraus finished reading the County's letter, Councilman George Ward began the conversation. Mr. Ward explained that the City cannot freeze the County millage. Mr. Ward said, "I'd be upset if I thought someone was freezing our millage rate, but that is not the case."

City Manager Johnson explained, "Clearly the millage is not frozen, the property value is frozen - it's capped at the base year rate. That is whatever the property value is at that time."

CM Johnson continued, "The City does not calculate the TIF money, the Tax Collector does... the City has absolutely nothing to do with the calculation of TIF revenues."

City Manager Wendell Johnson and the City Council have their sea legs back and are doing some straight talking with the County. City Manager Johnson gives some straight talk to Mr. Kraus.

Nobody showed up – County MIA as usual

CM Johnson told Mr. Kraus that the City has been working on the new CRA plan for months. He explained that there've been many meetings in the past several months and invitations were "sent to the County Commission for the government meeting and other meetings. Nobody showed up."

CM Johnson continued, "The blight study was adopted by the Council about eight weeks ago. We had a noticed public hearing - sent notices out to everybody - nobody from the County showed up."


Links: Information on the Blight Study and other CRA articles can be found here.

In the City - Citizen input is the key

CM Johnson explained that it was citizens' input that was used during the public meetings and taken into consideration by the Council and the city's consultant before the area was expanded.

CM Johnson said, "Based on this letter, signed by Lisa Williams [Roberts] it is clear to me that Lisa does not have a full understanding of what she signed. I would encourage her to come visit with me... This is not about a lack of providing anything. This is a lack of participation on government."

CM Johnson concluded, "I don't think the City could have done a better job about getting the word out. Everything that's happened here has been going on for months and the letter [city to county announcing the public hearing] that was sent March 8 was not the beginning. It was the end."

Mr. Kraus, humbled, now had the complete picture, "If you do have any information that I can take back to the County, that would be appreciated."

CM Johnson, "Absolutely."

Suzanne Thompson - the master planner explains

IBI's Suzanne Thompson, with Mr. Kraus looking on, explains the criteria for determining areas of blight.

The public hearing concluded with master planner Suzanne Thompson of the IBI Group explaining that it was over whelming community support that requested an expansion of the CRA area. As a result, a blight study was prepared and presented on February 7.

According to the Fla. Statutes there are fourteen conditions which define areas of blight. For an area to be included in the Community Redevelopment boundaries, two of these conditions must be met. Ms. Thompson explained that the new areas met seven of the fourteen requirements.


If Columbia County government had participated and appeared at the February 7th CRA public hearing expanding the boundaries, they would have had all their questions answered.

It is business as usual in Columbia County Commission governance.

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

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Links: Information on the Blight Study and other CRA articles can be found here. If the County had answered an invitation or two, its questions would have been answered.