PORT RICHEY — After Pasco county commissioners recently raised concerns about how Port Richey was running its community redevelopment agency, the city this week agreed to begin the process of excluding one neighborhood which no one could argue matched the definition of “blight.”
Community redevelopment agencies focus on redeveloping blighted areas and slums and are overseen by a special taxing district which provides that focus. In Port Richey, the entire city is designated as such a district. It is overseen by the Port Richey City Council sitting as the community redevelopment board.
In January, Pasco commissioners raised concerns that some portions of the city, mainly a gated, waterfront community called Harborpointe, didn’t meet the definition of a blighted area with its multi-million dollar homes. Commissioners also had issues with the city using money collected through the district for salaries rather than direct expenses to improve Port Richey neighborhoods, and for the city failing to fully fund the district in the past budget year.
This week, county administrator Dan Biles attended the Port Richey Community Redevelopment Agency to voice commissioner concerns. He got no argument about the boundary issue, as agency chairman Scott Tremblay said cutting Harborpointe from the district would be an easy first step.
Redevelopment agency board member Jennie Sorrell asked the definition of blight and how officials can make those boundary determinations in other portions of the city. City officials pointed out that the statute about blight doesn’t define the term. “We just have to do the best that we can,” Tremblay said.
The board voted unanimously to gather information to remove the one waterfront community from their boundary and find out how much it would cost.
Other issues the County Commission raised, related to the agency’s finances, were more complex and could not be resolved immediately, Biles acknowledged.
In 2019, after a series of city controversies, including the arrest of former Port Richey Mayor Dale Massad, State Representative Amber Mariano pushed a bill to disband Port Richey. One of the complaints was that the city was misusing its redevelopment agency budget. That push ended when a state audit was ordered of the agency, and city officials said Tuesday that they hope to have results of that audit soon.
Biles said county commissioners understood that the financial questions they raised could wait until then. The county commission’s goal, he said, was for Port Richey to come into compliance with state rules.