Mayor Alpert to be asked to send letter to County Commission Chair Hines
On the afternoon of May 20, as part of its Unfinished Business items, the Sarasota City Commission will be asked to approve a letter to the Sarasota County Commission that seeks the latter’s collaboration with the city on a funding stream for The Bay project planned on 53 city-owned waterfront acres.
A memo prepared for the city commissioners about the request points out that on Sept. 6, 2018, they approved the master plan for The Bay, which includes public park amenities and the construction of a new performing arts center to replace the Van Wezel. The board also provided the go-ahead for work on Phase 1 on the 10 southernmost acres of The Bay property.
“The proposed funding for the [overall] project includes several different sources,” the city staff memo says. One of them, as noted in Section 7 of the partnership agreement the commission approved on April 15 with the nonprofit Bay Park Conservancy, talks of the potential use of tax-increment financing (TIF).
The City and County commissions could agree to set a base year of property tax value for an area encompassing The Bay. Then, as the value of the land increases over time, the revenue reflecting the difference between each new annual value and the base value would be set aside in a trust fund to help pay for facets of the project.
Prior to the April 15 vote, representatives of the Bay Park Conservancy (BPC) had broached the TIF idea in discussions with both the City and County commissions.
The agenda material for the May 20 City Commission meeting includes a draft of the letter Mayor Liz Alpert would be asked to sign, addressed to County Commission Chair Charles Hines. It asks that the County Commission allow its staff to work with city staff and the BPC to establish a TIF district. The creation of that funding mechanism, the letter adds, would necessitate “the development of an Interlocal Agreement that [would] need to be brought back to our respective Boards for approval.”
During the most recent BPC exchange with county commissioners — on March 13 — only Commissioner Alan Maio indicated any interest in participating in a new TIF with the city. Maio was a longtime colleague of Bill Waddill, managing director of the BPC; both previously were principals of the Kimley-Horn and Associates consulting firm in Sarasota.
Even then, Maio told Waddill, “I can’t imagine me voting for a 30-year TIF.”
With votes in March, the city and county boards finally approved an agreement that settled a years-long feud over the previous TIF on which they collaborated, which paid for improvements to downtown Sarasota over a 30-year period.
The material for the May 20 City Commission agenda item does point out, “The type of tax increment financing envisioned by the parties [for The Bay] is a ‘home rule’ TIF district and not a district pursuant to the [state] Community Redevelopment Act predicated on a finding that the district is characterized by slum and blight.”
Delving into the details
A Feb. 20 memo to Mayor Alpert and the other city commissioners, written by Assistant City Manager John Lege, further explains that even though TIF subsidies “are not appropriated directly from the City’s budget … the City does forgo some increases in tax revenues it would potentially realize …”
He added, “The TIF being discussed potentially doubles the resources which can be invested in the [new bayfront park] by having the County’s [tax] increment included.”
Lege also attached the proposed TIF district for The Bay. It includes the 53 city-owned acres, he noted, plus “property to the north [of that acreage], the Quay [Sarasota] property, portions of the Rosemary District and the two main corridors into the 53-acre parcel by way of Boulevard of the Arts and 10th Street.”
Additionally, Lege noted that the first scenario city staff had explored with the BPC leadership “assumes there would be a flat taxable growth of 5% per year and does not add specific properties under construction. As a comparison,” he continued, “the expired [Downtown Sarasota Community Redevelopment Area] TIF had an average growth of 5.9% over 30 years.”
The second scenario, Lege wrote, “assumes front-loaded growth increasing from 7% to 11% in the first 11 years and [then] 3% in the out years. This scenario is based on an analysis by The Bay and incorporates specific properties where construction is underway including the Quay, Sarasota Modern [hotel], BLVD Sarasota [a condominium project], CitySide Phase II [apartments located at 700 Cocoanut Ave.], the [Sarasota] Hyatt’s second tower” and the property on North Tamiami Trail The Players Center for the Performing Arts sold last year.
Finally, Lege noted, a third scenario “assumes a blended growth rate equal to the average of the first two scenarios.”
The agenda material for the May 20 discussion notes, “With Phase 1 of The Bay Park now being designed and funding needed for completion of the entire Master Plan, it is time for the City, The Bay Park Conservancy and Sarasota County to work together to create a TIF District. During the development of the Master Plan and Proposed Funding Plan for the 53 acres, Sarasota County has been engaged in the process with County and City staff serving on the Financial Feasibility Working Group, a group that was created to review the Proposed Funding Plan for The Bay Park. In addition, the City, County and The Bay Park Conservancy have met several times for initial discussions regarding the creation of a TIF District.”
The City Commission meeting will begin at 1:30 p.m. at City Hall, located at 1565 First St. in downtown Sarasota. The TIF discussion is the first one scheduled under Unfinished Business, following approval of two consent agendas of routine business items.