By Jane Smith
At the Nov. 18 City Commission meeting where the proposed land development regulations were discussed, Commissioner Adam Frankel called Diane Colonna back into the chambers to present the Community Redevelopment Agency’s views.
She told commissioners:
“The version of the code presented to the CRA in September, which was the same version presented to commission at the workshop in October, changed the measure of height from feet to stories, with the ability, if certain criterion were met, to go to five stories. That is what the board supported.
“Delray has always been on the cutting edge of development trends,” Colonna said. “We’ve had a lot of momentum from that. The CRA basically supports continuing in that direction.
“Everybody understands that six stories leads to buildings that were squashed, floor-to-ceiling heights were shorter than would be desired. So they (the CRA board) did support that change.
“Again anecdotally and with the general trend nationally with millennials and our efforts with the Office of Economic Development and efforts to attract entrepreneurs, people who want to live and work among like-minded folks — we’ve not had the opportunity to build that kind of office space. We are concerned that eliminating the fifth floor was going to make that even harder.”
Mayor Cary Glickstein responded a week later:
“Diane’s comments were accurate, but it is important to note positions serving one board’s mission may diverge from policies of another.
“The CRA correctly looks for ways to increase their tax increment financing within its boundary to continue funding CRA initiatives — a critically important tool.
“The commission’s role, however, is establishing citywide policy. Allowing taller buildings and higher densities may increase land values that increase CRA revenue, but such growth management ‘tools’ should be coupled with current citywide growth management policy beyond the dated 12-year-old master plan we have.
“Some differences (between boards) should be expected, particularly when most taxpayers reside outside the downtown that lies within the CRA district, with many of those residents looking to the commission to address their concerns about the quantity and quality of recently approved development and the imbalance created by a preponderance of residential rental projects.
By Jane Smith
Correction -- I meant to use the iPic Theater as an example of the factors the CRA uses in considering whether or not to support a particular development proposal, which rarely involve consideration of the amount of tax revenues that will be generated. The board's support of the continued potential for a fifth floor in the central business district was based on its ongoing support for a vibrant, active downtown that includes an appropriate mix of uses. Allowing the possibility of a fifth floor in certain limited locations as a bonus for obtaining needed office space is a trade off the board felt would be beneficial to the overall health of the downtown. At no time during the discussion of the LDR revisions did the board talk about the potential impact of the changes on future tax revenues.
Contrary to the Mayor's statement that the CRA's support of the iPic Theater proposal was based on the amount of tax increment revenues it would generate, the CRA board based its decision on a number of factors. The CRA issued a Request for Proposals for the 1-1/2 acre site and received 4 responses from qualified development teams. The responses included a mix of retail, office, hotel and theater options. The support expressed by the public both on social media, emails, and at the public meeting held for the selection, was overwhelmingly in favor of the iPic proposal. People expressed concern about the Regal Theater closing, and felt the iPic would bring a needed entertainment use to the downtown. The CRA board considered all four proposals at their August 22, 2013 meeting and selected the iPic . During their discussion individual board members noted the following reasons for their decision: the theater would provide activities for families during the summer; the theater would help the surrounding businesses survive during the summer; the community supports the iPic theater the most; the use ties in with the City's art & culture objectives; the proposal will provide economic benefits to the City as a whole and to the area businesses. The amount of projected revenues the proposal would generate in comparison to the other proposals was not expressed as a factor in the decision. In fact, in my nearly 15 years as CRA Executive Director I can't recall one instance when the amount of tax revenues a project would generate was the deciding factor in the board's decision to support a proposal.
Diane Colonna, CRA Executive Director