New tools to help revive two areas of Milton

Published on February 06, 2013 with No Comments

Imagine new homes and businesses blossoming in two neighborhoods now struggling with blight, unoccupied buildings and vacant lots. This could happen with the help of a new formula that could rebuild areas north and south of historic downtown Milton.

The city’s creation of “community redevelopment agencies” would help the neighborhoods in three ways:

  1. “Tax increment financing” (TIF) — As property values rise, the additional tax revenue is kept in those neighborhoods specifically for improvements like roads, sidewalks and street lights.
  2. The areas qualify for more federal and state grants that upgrade safety, attractiveness and quality of life, and they increase chances for small business loans.
  3. Master plans for the areas could be developed.

Milton already has one Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA). It has been in effect since 1982, improving the area along U.S. 90 in the historic downtown area and encouraging rebirth of the Blackwater River-centered community.

The new CRAs would flank the existing CRA and help reverse the decline of deteriorating residential, business and industrial properties. The northern area extends along the river and Broad Street from Madison Street to Munson Highway. The southern area extends from the CSX tracks, covering Municipal Drive and Panzik Drive and part of Elmira Street.

Together, the new CRAs cover about 115 acres, much of it vacant, underused or deteriorating. Both areas meet State of Florida requirements defining blight and the need for redevelopment.

CRAs encourage redevelopment because the tax system sets aside any new property tax revenue for improvements in that specific area. Property-owners in CRAs like the fact that the money will be spent within the areas they are trying to improve.

The “base year” will be 2012/13, meaning that any increased property tax revenues in the CRA district will be set aside for use there.

Both areas have factors already in their favor. The city has significantly improved Carpenter’s Park and initiated other work to upgrade public access to the river. And the city hopes to eventually move its wastewater treatment plant to the East Milton Industrial Park, which will increase the appeal of the southern district.

CRA and TIF may be government acronyms, but they can spell progress for two neighborhoods.

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