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Updated: 10/11/2017 08:30:23AM

Town acknowledges ‘blight’ area

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LAKE PLACID — The Lake Placid Town Council, in a 2-1 vote, agreed to adopt findings from a study that confirms the town has blight in its downtown area.

The study, a “finding of necessity,” is one of the steps toward establishing a Community Redevelopment Agency. Councilwoman Debra Worley was absent from the meeting, despite being a proponent for a CRA. Councilwoman Arlene Tuck voted against the matter. In the past, she has expressed her view that she does not want to mark the downtown area as “blighted.”

Jennifer Codo-Salisbury, deputy director for the Central Florida Regional Planning Council, said in her presentation that the next step would be to have another community workshop at 6 p.m. Oct. 23, for people who live in the designated blighted area, at Lake Placid Town Hall, 51 Park Ave.

After that, a draft plan would be developed, and that actual plan would then go to the Council for first reading on Nov. 13, with a final decision Dec. 11. If the town decides then to create a CRA, it would use 2017 as the base year for the taxes, and any increase from that year within the CRA boundary would go to the CRA, Codo-Salisbury said.

Councilman Ray Royce, who seconded the measure, stated reluctance.

“If we approve this resolution, are we officially finding the need for a community redevelopment area? And, if we have in fact taken that action, and we decide at some future date not to move forward, have we backed up on what we’ve officially designated?” Royce asked. “I guess I’m just wondering: We’ve moved this thing along, and I just want to make sure we aren’t boxing ourselves in.”

“You are not boxing yourselves in,” Codo-Salisbury said. “By adopting the finding of necessity, you are acknowledging that there are conditions of blight that meet the Florida statute, which are founded by the study. But beyond that, you are not committed to creating a CRA.”

Royce still expressed concern with language that states “finding the need for a (CRA)” due to blighted areas. She said the study does find the need for a CRA, but she’d also had jurisdictions that found a need for a CRA, but didn’t start one.

She said adopting the study is just a step toward having a CRA.

The study found five types of blight in the proposed 524-acre CRA district — more than enough to satisfy the requirements under Florida law, Codo-Salisbury said. Those include a lack of sidewalks or street lighting in the area, degraded street pavement and lowered property values. The study area is bordered on the north by John Smoak Road and hugs U.S. 27 to the east. It also included the town hall and DeVane Park and areas to the west of it, as well as the town core, including the historic downtown area and residential streets, which has the oldest infrastructure.

Codo-Salisbury said the town had a community workshop on Jan. 30, 2017, where residents helped identify areas that need improvement. She said the study also looked at demographics. The area houses 1,526 people now and will have 1,614 in five years — 2022. Median household income now is $23,000 and is expected to hit $26,000 in 2022, which would still be lower than the county and state averages, Codo-Salisbury said.

Codo-Salisbury also reported that the study found higher rates of crime and code enforcement violations in those sections of town.

She said the majority of land use is residential, with some industrial, and commercial/office use. There is both future commercial and residential potential for development on the U.S. 27 corridor, she said.

Codo-Salisbury also reiterated the taxable property values for the district, which CFRPC Director Pay Steed had reported at the last regular council meeting on Aug. 14. They showed how the town is still recovering from the 2008-09 economic downtown, she said.

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