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Alachua County, City of Gainesville Will Try To Work Out Dispute Over CRA Funding

City and county commissioners discuss the possibilities for the Community Redevelopment Agency on Tuesday. (Isa Perez/WUFT News)
City and county commissioners discuss the possibilities for the Community Redevelopment Agency on Tuesday. (Isa Perez/WUFT News)

The Alachua County Board of Commissioners agreed Tuesday to work with the city of Gainesville to settle its dispute about representation on an agency responsible for community re-development.

Tensions between the city and county rose after the filing of House Bill 1237, which would allow county commissioners four of the seven seats on the board of the Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency. Currently state law does not allow county commissioners seats on CRAs.

At Tuesday’s meeting the commissioners voted 3-2 to work with the lobbyist and the Gainesville attorney to discuss options for amendments to the bill.

Community Redevelopment Agencies are taxpayer-funded organizations that develop areas in need of urban renewal. Some of their previous projects include building Depot Park, renovating Bo Diddley Plaza and replacing the Southwest 13th Street overpass with the Helyx Bridge. The CRA's annual budget, according to city manager Anthony Lyons, is about $6 million.

“The county, through general funds, provides two-thirds of the funding, but we are unable to get basic simple questions answered or concerns addressed,” county commissioner Mike Byerly said.

During the meeting, Gainesville City Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos asked the county if they could request that the bill’s sponsor, Representative Chuck Clemons, drop the bill. He instead suggested the city and county work things out on their own.

Before the meeting the city officials described the bill as  a “hostile takeover.” However, Byerly said it was more of an attack on the current relationship between the city and the county over how CRAs are managed.

The city and CRA board are scheduled to meet with the county on February 12 to discuss mutually agreeable ways to meet the objectives of both parties. County spokesman Mark Sexton, said the goal of the meeting will be to either amend the bill’s language before the session ends on March 9, or create an inter-local agreement of some sort.

“The good news is both commissions have decided it makes sense now to sit down and talk to each other and work out a compromise for the benefit of the citizens of Alachua County and Gainesville,” Sexton said.

Isa is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.