Sarasota County skeptical of The Bay challenge’s sustainability, funding sources, metropolis’s dedication – Information – Sarasota Herald-Tribune


County commissioners questioned whether or not the challenge may survive with out authorities assist, and signing on to a redevelopment effort inside the metropolis of Sarasota.

SARASOTA COUNTY — An replace on the town of Sarasota’s expensive bayfront redevelopment challenge by its planners met Wednesday with skepticism from some Sarasota County commissioners, who questioned the challenge’s long-term self-sustainability and expressed reservations about how a lot cash the county ought to in the end decide to  Sarasota’s formidable endeavor.

Members of the Sarasota Bayfront Planning Group, which is spearheading the greater than $300 million redevelopment challenge — often called The Bay — described to the County Fee how the group plans to rework the predominantly paved parking zone on Sarasota Bay. Proposed options embody an open inexperienced area with a number of pedestrian bridges, a relocated boat ramp, waterfront promenade, one-acre occasion garden, a three,000- to four,000-square-foot informal restaurant, smaller meals kiosks, a bait and deal with store, new performing arts middle, youngsters’s play area, botanical gardens and a cultural district.

Whereas county commissioners applauded the challenge and its anticipated regional impression, and emphasised that serving to it progress is a high county precedence, Commissioner Mike Moran expressed skepticism over whether or not the challenge may succeed with out authorities subsidies. A number of different board members questioned how a lot cash the county ought to allocate for a challenge exterior of its jurisdiction.

“There’s nothing in our monetary projections that has mentioned that shortfalls are going to crammed by the town or the county authorities, and we need to memberships, mates of the bay, we’re on the lookout for company sponsorships, we’re on the lookout for philanthropy to ensure that we’re not promoting one thing to the group that’s going to be something however an asset,” Cathy Layton, chairwoman of the Sarasota Bayfront Planning Group, advised Moran. “We’re not trying to create any liabilities.”

Whereas the county desires the 53-acre challenge flourish and has supplied to assist whereas retaining its taxpayers in thoughts, County Fee Chairman Charles Hines mentioned he’s troubled with the thought of giving important assist to a challenge exterior the county. His hesitance has been bolstered as a result of the Sarasota Metropolis Fee hasn’t been unanimous on key votes to tear down the vacant G.WIZ constructing to make means for the primary section of the challenge, and held off signing a preliminary define on how the planning group would transition and function as a park conservancy to run the challenge for many years to return, he mentioned.

“What I’m combating is what a number of commissioners have already mentioned: this actually isn’t our challenge,” Hines mentioned. “However for this challenge to work, the county must be concerned in it. Interval. So, we have to be engaged earlier, which means now. And it is advisable to make it simple for us. And the message coming from the town just isn’t simple.”

“The message is that they’re not dedicated but,” Hines added.

The Metropolis Fee final month pumped the brakes on approving a time period sheet that offered an overview for a way a park conservancy would elevate cash, implement and function the extremely anticipated challenge after it confronted group opposition. The Metropolis Fee is about to think about a ultimate contract on Monday. Additionally, a majority of the Metropolis Fee has voted to demolish the previous Selby Library-turned-vacant-children’s museum, often called G.WIZ, however Vice Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch has been a vocal proponent for sparing the long-abandoned constructing from the wrecking ball. The Metropolis Fee on Saturday will hear an enchantment to a demolition allow issued by the town in December.

Commissioner Nancy Detert echoed Hines’ sentiment.

“I going to presume that we had this excellent presentation since you’re going to anticipate a contribution from the county and my downside with it’s, it’s not our property,” Detert mentioned.

Invoice Waddill, managing director of the Sarasota Bayfront Planning Group, advised the County Fee his group is able to construct the challenge’s first section, which will probably be funded largely by personal donations. He anticipates the remainder of the challenge, to be constructed over greater than a decade, will probably be funded with personal donations and public funds, together with potential grants from the state. The primary section consists of a leisure pier on the south finish and a pedestrian bridge over Tamiami Path, which may take three to 4 years to construct and value roughly $10 million to $20 million. A part of the primary section additionally contains open area for occasions, outside motion pictures and artwork shows and would take a yr to construct at a value of $three million to $four million.

Waddill has mentioned a attainable funding supply is tax-increment financing, or TIF, as one option to pay for the challenge. TIF, which isn’t a brand new tax, permits a metropolis to divert the elevated property tax income generated by enhancements in a particular space to be plowed again into the realm. To ensure that the town to implement TIF, the county should first log off on it. The county final Might licensed its workers to have interaction in conversations with Waddill about utilizing TIF to assist pay for The Bay challenge, decide how lengthy the funds can be diverted and hash out how large of a portion of property tax revenues can be used. The county and metropolis used tax increment financing as a part of its long-term downtown revitalization program.

Commissioner Al Maio, nonetheless, mentioned he’s hesitant to enter right into a longterm TIF settlement with the town. The 2 jurisdictions solely just lately settled a feud a few ultimate fee to a the joint Neighborhood Redevelopment Fund they began collectively. Maio desires to keep away from one other potential battle with the town, he mentioned.

“I can’t think about me voting for a 30-year TIF,” Maio mentioned. “I can’t think about me voting for something longer than 20 years.”