NEW PORT RICHEY — For the first time in years, the city is looking to use its Community Redevelopment Agency as something other than a debt service entity.
Recent years of budget cuts, re-financing, and paying down of debt — coupled with a rosier property value outlook — have shored up the CRA. Now city leaders want to use some of the money to drive redevelopment efforts next year.
At a meeting Tuesday, the city council learned they will have a little more than $2 million in revenue for the 2014-15 fiscal year. While much of that budget will still go toward paying down debt on city-owned properties such as the Hacienda Hotel, Economic Development Director Mario Iezzoni is proposing funding for some redevelopment efforts.
"For the first time in six years, the CRA is in pretty good shape," Iezzoni said.
One proposed slice would be a $300,000 allotment for economic incentives to improve the Marine district and downtown, where empty storefronts abound. The money would cover façade grants for existing property owners, help prospective business owners with moving expenses, and provide grants to encourage property owners to make use of upstairs space for residential use.
"In order for the downtown to really work, we need our residential base to grow," Iezzoni said.
Iezzoni also wants to use $50,000 in CRA funds on the city's burgeoning business incubator, which it launched in partnership with the Pasco Economic Development Council this year. Another proposal would devote $150,000 to marketing and infrastructure in support of Pasco County's Harbors Plan with an emphasis on promoting eco-tourism along the Cotee River, including paddle sports and lobbying state leaders to lift a restriction on scalloping in the area.
Council member Jeff Starkey said scalloping packs hotels and boat ramps in Hernando County where it is legal.
"It's been a tremendous economic boon there," he said.