Pinellas moves forward with plans to create taxing district to help St. Petersburg's Midtown

Tampa Bay Times
Published Oct. 8, 2013

A plan to create two special taxing districts in the Midtown neighborhood of St. Petersburg took a step forward Tuesday with the Pinellas County Commission's approval of a blight study.

The study found that Midtown, home to many poor and out-of-work residents, met the requirements for city leaders to establish a Community Redevelopment Area, a step many hope will eventually bring in money to help redevelop the area. County staff will meet with city officials to set up the area.

Creating a CRA would allow officials to set up two taxing districts. If and when property values rise within those districts, the city would be able to spend the tax revenue on capital projects, such as lighting and sewer improvements, and buying vacant land.

The commission is considering using the same method of stoking development in four other low-income areas of the county including East Tarpon Springs, North Greenwood, Highpoint, and parts of Lealman.

"This will be the model," St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster told commissioners. "We're defining the governing document you will use in other areas of the county."

Commissioner Susan Latvala pushed county officials to begin working on similar blight studies in other poor areas of the county. St. Petersburg's plans are "on the fast track," she said, but county officials could balk if other city leaders come forward with similar proposals to keep local tax revenue.

Commissioner Karen Seel agreed: "What we do for one city, we have to be prepared to do for another city."