Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Editorials

Zephyrhills wise to expand redevelopment district

The planned expansion of Zephyrhills' redevelopment district should help improve the city's gateways and commercial corridor without burdening the city budget with suffocating debt.

State law allows local governments to establish so-called tax increment financing districts in which new tax revenue (including county taxes) attributed to higher property values is used to redevelop the area. The money can be used for capital improvements and to hire redevelopment-related personnel including administrators or police and code enforcement officers.

Zephyrhills, which established its 138-acre downtown district in 1998, now plans to add 119 more acres in four separate subdistricts along and around the north and south ends of Gall Boulevard and the east and western edges of Fifth Avenue. The future tax revenue could be used for fix-up grants to property owners, additional parking, street improvements, and even better recreation by adding more tennis courts to Zephyr Park.

The targeted redevelopment is smart and avoids the pitfalls confronting both New Port Richey and Port Richey, which hamstrung their general operating budgets by designating their entire cities as redevelopment districts. Combined, the two west side cities have received nearly $19 million from county tax revenue, but New Port Richey's unsuccessful real estate speculating and falling property values has left its CRA debt-ridden.

Port Richey's redevelopment was supposed to bring an attractive waterfront district, but has focused mostly on a still unsuccessful attempt to dredge residential canals.

Zephyrhills has had the opposite problem. Its relatively modest sized district has meant roughly $525,000 from Pasco County since 1998 including less than $42,000 last year. That has translated to minor investments in a narrow area.

Expanding the redevelopment district and trying to improve the central commercial corridors — particularly northward along Gall Boulevard to Eiland Boulevard — shows Zephyrhills wisely recognizes there is more to the city than just its downtown core.

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