INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - The contention of creating a Community Redevelopment Authority in the city, which would, through tax increment funding (TIF), raise money for city improvement projects, continues.
Mayor Bill Ockunzzi appears to be dug in solidly against any such move at this time and last week raised a welter of questions that are arcane in their technical quality.
Commissioner Jose Coppen, on the other hand, who has been advocating a move in the direction of a CRA virtually since he was elected last March, has offered hard figures on how a CRA with its accompanied TIF could benefit the city.
Coppen points out how the taxable value of IRB real property as of this year is $1.168 billon.
Relying on base figures that feed into the tax increment financing calculations, including ordinary development and normal increases in value, could amount to almost $12 million over 25 years.
The obvious area for redevelopment in Indian Rocks Beach is the so-called "Business Triangle," that area of the city south of Walsingham Boulevard where it enters the city and bordered by Gulf Boulevard and the Intracoastal Waterway.
There has been much talk over the years of improvements there, but not enough hard and fast and positive accomplishment. There is an unwillingness in Indian Rocks Beach among some officials to invest in the city.
Because it is located right on the Gulf, land values in IRB will always go up and as they do accumulations in a TIF would also. This is the money that could finance improvements.
On a much smaller scale, the Business Triangle could become a developed area much as was done in Baltimore with the Inner Harbor and with Boston in the Faneuil Hall area.
Coppen pushed hard for a CRA district at last week's IRB commission meeting and how financing might work. Commission members decided to hear from a county government lawyer on the aspects of a CRA and a CRA expert.
The move over recent years of dropping the word "Christmas" from the very Christmas season we are now in has arisen in Indian Rocks Beach but Victor Wood, a candidate for mayor in the last election and an ever alert citizen spotted the trend in IRB.
At last week's commission meeting he asked - "Is 'Merry Christmas' politically incorrect?" And went on to relate that holiday cards in front of Kolb Park (right in front of the city hall) had been prepared by the Beach Art Center.
The Beach Art Center is another of those entities that gets taxpayer funds (reports are that the local YMCA program, recipient of $60,000 of taxpayer funds every year, is dead).
Commission members made no response to Wood's plaint. He suggested that the decorations be re-done and he would pay for them if necessary.
"I am absolutely appalled that (the true Christmas) message is (not) displayed," Wood said. "The message symbolizes peace on earth, the spirit of giving and the most joyous moment in Christian faith."
Wood said that if the signs with the strictly secular tone are not changed then that everything should be removed.
It is a mystery why taxpayer funds go to private enterprises, in this case the Beach Art Center, and historically the YMCA.
Why not ship some funds to Calvary Episcopal Church, Church of the Isles or up the road to St. Jerome's?
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