Jun 23, 2023

Brooksville council takes next step to expand CRA

The area outlined in red is the current Community Redevelopment Area; the areas outlined in yellow are the expanded borders of the CRA.

BROOKSVILLE — There’s enough blight in this city to make expanding the Community Redevelopment Area a good idea, and that’s what the City Council voted to do on July 17.

David Hainley, the community development director, said he hired the Inspire Placemaking Collective to update the CRA, and the recommendation was to expand the district.

Laura Canary of Inspire said there’s enough slum and blight in the city to justify expansion.

Conditions she found include overgrown vegetation, broken pavement, potholes, inadequate draining, and lack of pedestrian facilities.

She also recognized faulty lot layout, bad accessibility, limited flexibility, unsanitary and unsafe conditions, and faulty infrastructure.

There are large lot layouts with street-facing parking and the actual buildings in the distance, she said, as well as buildings that are in bad condition.

The council voted 5-0 to adopt the finding of necessity. A website has been created ( that lets members of the public take a survey and see interactive maps.

Hainley also delivered a quarterly report on the CRA’s actions and finances.

The following is a list of the current CRA individual grants and their grant amount:

• 104 S. Main St., $20,000

• 158 S. Main St., $20,000

• 245 E. Fort Dade Ave., $18,010

• 11 N. Main St., $3,904

• 504 E. Jefferson St., $991.36

• 161 E. Jefferson St., $20,000

• 291 E. Jefferson St., $20,000

• 410 E. Liberty St., $17,173.84

• 29 S. Brooksville Ave., $9,781.75

The grant funds totaled $111,850.95. Additionally, funds have been committed to defer costs within the area, including an $85,000 commitment for utility relocation for the Good Neighbor Trail, Community Development Block Grant matching funds of $50,000 when the CRA gets paperwork.

The CRA has a contract with Inspire Placemaking Collective to update the CRA and conduct a study to determine the ability to expand the area for $111,800.

The current fund balance as of May 31 is $392,236.23.

Housing loan rejected

Organizations that seek to build affordable housing and need a loan from the City Council have found themselves looking elsewhere for money, and that’s what happened to National Community Renaissance. Oscar Paul of the organization asked for a loan or grant of $20,000. “The loan constitutes a Local Government Contribution (LGC) from the city to financially assist the project and such LGC is necessary to compete for the developer's application to be filed with Florida Housing Finance Corporation,” according to the agenda paperwork.

The six-acre site is on Candlelight Boulevard in an area already zoned for 86 units, so no rezoning is needed.

Hibiscus Pointe would be “a launching pad, not a landing pad,” Paul said.

The buildings would be three-story garden-style apartments of one, two and three bedrooms with amenities and 5,000 square feet of community space.

Mayor Blake Bell asked if Paul had talked with the neighboring homeowners’ associations, and Paul admitted he had not. Bell replied the homeowners nearby might not be happy to learn that apartments were going to be built near them since they have so much invested in their property.

As for the current moratorium, the city’s Hainley said it doesn’t apply since there is no need for a rezoning.

Still, the council was skeptical of the plan, concerned about the need for a fast decision and the income-limitations for the residents.

Council member Thomas Bronson asked if someone who got a raise in salary could be kicked out of the complex, and Paul said the housing has annual compliance checks.

Paul noted a strong need for affordable housing in the area, but Bronson said the area needed market-rate housing, too, and not too much affordable housing.

“I just don’t want to take up all the spots,” he said.

In a previous case, Bell said, the development was supposed to be “affordable” but became “low-income.”

City Manager Ron Snowberger said that it is a $20 million project coming in, and it would provide a tax base to the city.

Council member Christa Tanner expressed concern because Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed new legislation that gives municipalities less room to reject housing projects.

Paul promised to work collaboratively with the city and said he’d go to the county and see if they’d give him the loan, but a motion to deny passed 4-1.

Tanks and bricks

Public Works Director Paul Booth asked for almost $98,000 for the Lamar In-ground Storage Tank, which he said is nearly 70 years old.

During the process of sand-blasting and recoating the tank, Booth said, the tank was found to not be in the condition it was expected to be in.

The work will seal the tank walls so it can hold water for 30 to 50 more years.

Council member David Bailey asked if there would be any more change orders, noting, “You’re notorious for coming in with change orders.”

Booth said an engineering firm looked at the tank and said that was what was needed, and added that he had inherited most of the projects on which he requested change orders.

The motion was approved 5-0.

Booth said he was able to find bricks for Russell Street from the Tampa area, and even brought one in to show the council.

They will need bricks from 1875 to 1930, he said, and despite searching the nation he cannot find any Augusta bricks.

He said they will be hiring a contractor to come in, remove bricks on Russell Street, remove and reinstall the base layer, and expects to come back to council for adoption of road designs.

Regarding Highland, city crews will remove bricks this week, and then they’ll evaluate the base layer.

In other action

• The city honored Audrey Williams on her retirement and for her more than 35 years of service, and honored Michael P. Dow on his retirement and for his more than 30 years of service.

• Bell said about a dozen resumes have come in for the city manager position opened up by Snowberger’s retirement in August. The council voted to approve naming Charlene Kuhn as Interim Acting City Manager while they go through resumes and interviews.

• The council met Larry Jaffe, who they are considering for the city’s Poet Laureate. “I didn’t know Brooksville needed a poet, but now I know,” said council member David Bailey. The city is awaiting further information.

• Booth gave a presentation on new design ideas for the dais, and Tanner was named the point person.

• Contracts are being finalized for the new Public Works building. There will be a three-bay garage, and the last bay will be able to handle the city’s largest fire truck and garbage truck. There will also be a sign shop and amenities for employees.

This article has been corrected to reflect that the city did not name Larry Jaffe the city's Poet Laureate but are seeking more information.

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