LAKE PLACID - The Town of Lake Placid will take the initial step to start a Community Redevelopment Agency, but council was split on how to initiate the effort.
Councilman Ray Royce said it may cost $75,000 to $80,000 to start a CRA. He suggested having the Central Florida Planning Agency seek grant money to fund the "study of necessity" that is required to create a CRA.
"I don't believe we can do the study of necessity for $5,000 or $10,000," he said. "We certainly don't have a well defined idea of what we would be asking somebody to bid on."
During the discussion on the issue it was noted that there was a very good chance of receiving a grant for the study.
Councilwoman Debra Worley disagreed, believing council needed to move forward without waiting for possible grant funding.
"You have to make a first step," she said. "We keep saying 'we want to wait for a grant.'"
The town has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars by not having a CRA, Worley said.
Councilman Steve Bastardi said these are challenging times and it is hard to start a business.
He summarized Lake Placid as a "seasonal retirement community," and stated it is a difficult environment for success.
Another challenge is that Lake Placid is in proximity to a town that has "critical mass," Bastardi said. Sebring has all the big box stores.
A CRA has some potential to solve some problems, he said, but the solution is for a problem that can't be defined.
"A CRA diverts tax money to a commission that takes the funds to try to produce a better end result in a defined area," he said.
The problem is, the tax dollars diverted to the CRA will have to be replaced by local and county governments through even more taxes from others, Bastardi said.
A councilman asked for a show of hands from the audience, which showed about 20 people in support of a CRA and one person against it.
Council split its vote, 2-2, on Worley's motion to seek bids from entities to prepare the CRA study of necessity.
Worley and Councilman Mike Waldron voted for the motion and Royce and Bastardi voted against it.
In the event of a tie the mayor casts the deciding vote.
Mayor John Holbrook said, "If we don't do something we are going to lose all of our businesses in town. On the other hand, I have got to look out for the taxpayers. But without the businesses the taxpayers aren't going to have anything either."
Based on his conversations with Town Administrator Phil Williams, and his beliefs about the RFP (request for bid), Holbrook said he will vote "yes."
Most of those in the audience applauded Holbrook's statement.
Williams will work on preparing the bid notice to seek an entity to perform the CRA study of necessity.