CRA settlement with the City of Sarasota wins County Commission approval

City Commission set to vote on documents on March 18

A graphic shows the Downtown Sarasota Community Redevelopment Area. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

One vote down; one to go.

On March 12, with no comment,the Sarasota County Commission unanimously approved a four-part settlement with the City of Sarasota related to a nearly three-year-old dispute over the dissolution of the Downtown Sarasota Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) Trust Fund.

The county expense will be about $2.63 million, according to a memo from County Administrator Jonathan Lewis.

In 2017, City Manager Tom Barwin said city staff had figured in interest on a disputed final payment to reach a figure of about $5.5 million that the city claimed the county owed to the trust fund. However, $2,630,000 is the amount of the final payment city financial staff said it originally had expected from the county.

The City Commission will address the CRA settlement on March 18, during its next regular meeting, its agenda says.

The settlement was on the County Commission’s March 12 Consent Agenda of routine business items. In contrast, the City Commission is scheduled to consider the matter as one of itsUnfinished Business items in the afternoon portion of its March 18 session, which will begin at 1:30 p.m. at City Hall in downtown Sarasota.

When County Commission Chair Charles Hines asked whether anyone wished to pull an item from the March 12 Consent Agenda for discussion, no one mentioned the CRA settlement.

Among the four resolutions the county board approved this week was a release of claims. That document says that in 2004, the City and County commissions entered into an interlocal agreement “to address systematic overpayments of County tax revenue into the Community Redevelopment Area Trust Fund and to establish that the County deposits into the trust found would end with the 2016 tax year …”

With approval of the settlement, that document notes, the city and county “expressly deny liability with respect to the final payment of County incremental tax revenue into the Downtown Redevelopment Trust Fund and acknowledge that this Agreement constitutes a food faith compromise of disputed claims and termination of the controversies …”

The terms

A section of a March 12 staff memo to the County Commission explains the sources of the funding for the settlement projects. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The overall settlement calls for the following actions:

  • A county payment of $1 million and a city contribution of $500,000 for the implementation of an affordable housing program “within the boundaries of the City that will include the rehabilitation of existing single-family homes and the construction of new single-family homes within the City …”

The proposal calls for the city to construct projects on lots it owns. Additionally, within 30 days of the end of each calendar quarter, the city is to provide county staff “a written status report of all activities of the program in the preceding quarter,” including a list of all expenditures.

  • A county payment of $1 million from Tourist Development Tax revenue allocated for county beach renourishment efforts, which the city is to use to help pay for an emergency renourishment project underway on Lido Key.

That project was the topic of City Commission discussion on Feb. 18. City Engineer Alexandrea DavisShaw discussed uncertainty about when the CRA settlement would be completed and the promised $1 million in county funding allocated to the city.

The March 12 county resolution also emphasizes that sand for the emergency project “will not come from the Big Pass system,” and the county funds cannot be used “to reimburse the City any expenses incurred in any litigation.”

The Siesta Key Association (SKA) remains in litigation against the city over the proposal for the city and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to remove up to 1.3 million cubic yards of sand from Big Sarasota Pass for a long-term renourishment project on South Lido Key. The SKA has argued that dredging the pass — which never has been done — would lead to significant damage on Siesta Key. The USACE has continued to assert that its modeling for the project shows otherwise.

An aerial view of Lido Beach in City Manager Tom Barwin’s March 8 newsletter shows the progress as of that date of the emergency renourishment project. Photo courtesy City of Sarasota

In his March 8 newsletter, City Manager Tom Barwin reported that high seas associated with cold fronts have continued to delay the completion of the emergency renourishment project on Lido Beach.

The dredging equipment — which is removing sand from New Pass — cannot operate in high seas, Barwin pointed out. “Mother Nature has forced temporary shutdowns,” he added, “including a few days [last] week.”

The project is expected to be completed in early April, Barwin wrote.

  • County reimbursement to the city of $432,126.13 “for qualifying remediation activities” involving the city’s Marian Anderson Place brownfield. City staff has been working with a private developer on a proposal for the property in north Sarasota.

In May 2012, the city and county entered into an interlocal agreement that called for the county to reimburse the city up to $500,000 for remediation and rehabilitation of the Marian Anderson Place site, the new resolution points out. However, the county ended up providing only $67,873.87 to the city for environmental monitoring activities. At the end of December 2017, that interlocal agreement terminated, the resolution adds.

A graphic provides details about a May 2018 proposal for a project on the Marian Anderson Place site. Subsequent concerns about instability of portions of the property led the City Commission last year to agree to more investigation of the site, at the developer’s request. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

Nonetheless, the resolution continues, the city and county “acknowledge that additional Site assessment activities may need to be conducted by [the city’s] environmental consultants …” Further, it notes, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) never has approved a Brownfield Site Rehabilitation Agreement (BSRA) for the property, though its designation as a brownfield entitles the city to negotiate with FDEP for such action.

Additionally, the FDEP may require the city to develop a Remedial Action Plan (RAP) for the site, the resolution says, after plans for redevelopment of the property have won city approval.

The county would not pay any further money to the city until the County Commission has reviewed and approved a “fully-executed agreement” between the city and a developer for construction on Marian Anderson Place, the document adds; FDEP has approved either a BSRA or an RAP; documentation has been provided to the county that the city and the developer “have made diligent, good faith efforts” to obtain grant funding and other sources of money to assist with site cleanup or remediation; and the county has received documentation that “no other sources of Brownfield Grant funds” are available to either the city or the developer from federal, state or other agencies to assist with cleanup or remediation of Marian Anderson Place.

After the surface lot has been completed, that resolution points out, the city “shall charge market rates” for parking there. Then, within 30 days of the end of each calendar quarter, the city is to pay the county half the gross revenue generated by the paid parking program. Those payments are to end after the city has reimbursed the county for its share of the construction cost for the lot.

The agreement adds that the city will have sole responsibility for the maintenance and operation of the parking area.

Further, the city is to designate three of the spaces for “exclusive use of Sarasota County” and provide signage to that effect. However, the city may charge the county for parking permits for those spaces, the agreement notes.

The March 12 county staff memo reports on how facets of the settlement align with County Commission priorities. Image courtesy Sarasota County