Gainesville and Alachua County commissioners concluded months of debate on the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency with an agreement Monday.
The CRA, which is tasked with handling city projects, such as the DNA Bridge and Depot Park, is overseen by city officials. Rep. Chuck Clemons, R-District 21, proposed state legislation that would add county officials, and city commissioners said they felt the move was behind their backs.
After four hours of deliberation, city and county officials agreed on four points: the county will ask Clemons to withdraw the bill; the city will reduce the county’s millage rate, which is used to calculate property tax, for the CRA project behind Midtown; the commissions will discuss a contract for county board representation; and officials will pass a motion to ensure the commissions communicate about other issues.
The county has wanted representation on the city-run board for years, according to Alligator archives. County officials argued that because the county provides two-thirds of the agency’s funding, they should have a seat at the table.
However, state law prohibits county officials from sitting on CRA boards. Clemons’ proposed bill in December would change that, according to Alligator archives. City commissioners wanted the bill withdrawn.
Alachua County Commissioner Ken Cornell said the commissions will schedule a meeting to discuss the agreement, which must be settled by June 30.
“I’m glad that we worked out something from both boards,” Cornell said. “I’m happy to move forward with the interlocal agreement in the summer.”
Clemons watched the meeting’s livestream and called Mark Sexton, a spokesperson for the county, to offer to withdraw the bill if they pass the motion.
Mayor Lauren Poe, who opposed Clemons’ bill, said he was concerned with how the commissions will work together in the future. He said the bill generated trust issues between the commissions.
“We’re digging a hole that I’m afraid we’re not going to be able to climb out of,” Poe said.
After deliberations, the commissions voted. City Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos voted against the motion, while County Commissioners Charles Chestnut and Mike Byerly voted against portions of the motion.
City Commissioner David Arreola said the county went behind the city’s back to involve state legislature. He voted to support the motion in order to withdraw the bill.
“I’m glad the county withdrew support of the bill,” he said after the meeting. “I still have no idea what they want, why they’re interested in the CRA or why they’re willing to drag a partnership through this gauntlet.”