Vice Mayor DuBois questions redevelopment plans

john-duboisPalmetto Bay Vice Mayor John DuBois convened a town hall meeting January 6 before the regular village council meeting to address questions he has about financial projections for downtown redevelopment plans. The Palmetto Bay Downtown Redevelopment Task Force, headed by Ed Silva, Palmetto Bay Village Director of Buildings and Capital Improvement, in September presented a new vision for Downtown Palmetto Bay as a move to reverse a declining tax base and revitalize the area.

“The missing link is the financial plan with projections,” the vice mayor said. “We have seen a 90-slide PowerPoint, but a PowerPoint is not a plan. We need a written plan that is properly documented.” DuBois suggested that Palmetto Bay hire a consulting firm to develop a written plan with projections.  “Much of [the plan] may have been done already, but it has not been presented to the council yet,” he added.

The area being looked at for redevelopment in phase 1 of the project is U.S. 1 near Franjo Road, south of 184th Street. With Franjo as an eventual main street, the area would feature shops and new residential units in what the redevelopment task force describes as a “livable, walkable downtown area.” The task force and it subcommittees met 40 times in 2013; the project began in May 2013 and its 2014 budget is $2.5 million.

DuBois presented several slides from a longer slide show produced by the Palmetto Bay Downtown Redevelopment Task Force. The task force’s blog can be found at  under “News & Events-Downtown Roadshows”.

DuBois asked how many years it would take for return-on-investment for the project, and who the first seven anchor tenants of the new shopping area would be.

Some residents at the meeting expressed concern that luxury stores would force necessary merchants such as hardware stores, computer repair and bicycle repair shops further away from residential areas. “I think we need to look at what kind of village we want to live in,” said Eric Tullberg, a resident who is chairman of the county Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee.  “There’s a need for a mix of retail shops.”

DuBois repeatedly stressed his point that a revenue goal had not been set for the redevelopment project, and expressed concern that any investment made by Palmetto Bay may be at risk.

“The redevelopment plans can’t all be driven by return-on-investment,” countered Scott Silver, a Palmetto Bay businessman and developer. “It’s not business, this is government, and government is supposed to create a better environment for people.” Scott urged the redevelopment task force to invest in only a small portion of infrastructure: “Pick a bite-size area and do that, then let economic forces take over.”

“I’m concerned we’re overlooking the needs and concerns of individuals who live and work in that area,” said resident James H. Woodard, raising the specter of eminent domain.

“If this thing does move forward, there is going to be in some cases forceful taking of property,” Du Bois said. Acknowledging that no one can see into the future, the vice mayor said, “The financial plans don’t have to be right, they just have to be there.”

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