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County wants say in project

Hillsborough commissioners say they'll create a taxing district for Central Park, but they want to know how the money is spent.

By BILL VARIAN
Published June 8, 2006


TAMPA - Hillsborough County commissioners agreed to create a special taxing district to help remake the blighted Central Park Village public housing area near downtown Wednesday - but only if they're given some say-so in how the money is spent.

Commissioners want two seats on the board that would govern that specially designated redevelopment area and eight others that already have been created by the city of Tampa. And they want to be able to appoint two more to a citizen advisory board that will weigh in on decisions related to redevelopment in and around Central Park.

They also are pushing for a half-dozen other measures to ensure that the working poor and minorities can land jobs and buy homes in the area.

"I have a major problem with what has been handed to us here today,'' said Commissioner Tom Scott, who pitched those measures and others in response to the city's request for county support. "We asked the city for a real partnership and accountability. It seems like they don't want that.''

The board voted 4-2, with Commissioners Mark Sharpe and Kathy Castor, two of the strongest backers on the board for creating the district, opposing the approach.

City Attorney David Smith told commissioners he thinks those demands will be deal breakers when presented to the Tampa City Council today. While saying he's not even clear what the commissioners are seeking, he characterized it as a last-minute maneuver that leverages Central Park residents in an effort to score political points.

However, City Council members reached Wednesday night said they are at least willing to explore the proposal if the law allows it. Currently, they are the only representatives on the body that governs the city's special taxing districts - known as the Community Redevelopment Agency - even though much of its money comes from tax dollars that residents in those districts pay to the county.

But a recent change to state law would let county commissioners serve on CRAs after July 1.

"There's county money in the deal. Why shouldn't they have a seat at the table?" council member Shawn Harrison said. "Any opportunity we as a city have to sit down and work cooperatively with the county, we should take."

The city is seeking to create a so-called community redevelopment area and special taxing district for the 143 acres adjacent to downtown that includes the 28-acre Central Park complex. A portion of all future increases in property taxes collected in the neighborhood, including county taxes, would be dedicated to things like new roads and drainpipes in that immediate area for the next 30 years.

Times staff writer Janet Zink contributed to this report.

[Last modified June 8, 2006, 05:37:00]


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