South St. Petersburg Community Redevelopment Plan gets trust; Lealman, recognized as blighted, is established as CRA

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The Pinellas County Commission officially created a trust fund for the South St. Petersburg Community Redevelopment Plan at its Tuesday, June 23, regular meeting.

The trust will get its money through tax increment funding (TIF), a public financing method that uses future tax gains to subsidize community improvements. In this case, bonds based on 85 percent of the TIF district’s 2014 tax increment will be distributed to the redevelopment trust fund by the county.

Over its 30-year lifespan, the established TIF district is expected to bring $27.6 million dollars from the county’s general fund into the proposed South St. Petersburg CRA — which comprises the same land as the TIF district. The $27.6 million estimate is based on an assumed 2 percent annual increase in assessed property values over those 30 years — an increase expected to come from the area’s redevelopment efforts.

“This is a great day for our county,” said District 7 Commissioner Welch upon the trust’s approval. “We’ve talked about the importance of moving forward together, as a community, and I think that’s reflected in this [South St. Petersburg Community Redevelopment Plan].”

Pinellas County’s Lealman area will also be subject to a community redevelopment plan, as an official CRA was established for the plan at the county’s June 23 commission meeting.

According to a Pinellas County Planning Department analysis of blight throughout the unincorporated Lealman area, a total of nine blighting factors were present in the community. That’s out of a possible 14 blighting factors in total, of which only two have to be present in order to officially establish a CRA.

The nine blighting factors include unsanitary or unsafe conditions; a predominance of defective or inadequate street layouts, parking facilities, roadways, bridges, or public transportation facilities; a high volume of fire and emergency medical service calls to the area, and high crime rates compared to the rest of the county.

“There are nights where I’ve stayed outside all night with a boat light, chasing off prostitutes, johns and pimps,” said a retired Marine named Lance who was in attendance to speak on the issue.

Lance, who cited St. Petersburg’s ban on homelessness and Pinellas Park’s diligent police activity for Lealman’s deterioration, has owned a home in East Lealman for 18 years and said he’s felt abandoned by Pinellas County over the past few, a point to which Commissioner Welch responded by saying county funding cuts were made across the board in the past, not just in Lealman

Lance was also worried about potential code enforcement fines for Lealman property owners, like himself, which may come with the CRA.

At its July 21 meeting, Pinellas County Commission is expected to adopt an ordinance that will allow them to double as the Lealman Community Redevelopment Agency Board.

A Lealman CRA Advisory Committee is slated for establishment at the same July 21 meeting. Related membership requirements and term limits will also be laid out.

A redevelopment trust fund for the Lealman CRA is anticipated to be created using TIF funding. The fiscal impact will be analyzed over the next eight to 12 months, according to the Board’s June 23 Lealman CRA agenda item

Devon Crumpacker is a Tampa Bay based writer and reporter for Extensive Enterprises Media. He primarily covers Pinellas County politics for SaintPetersblog.com, but also makes time to write the occasional bar review for FloridaBarTab.com. He lives in St. Petersburg with his fiance, Sydney. To contact, e-mail devon@floridapolitics.com, or visit his Twitter page @DevonCrumpacker.