CRA board considers altering its structure

For the better part of a year, the city of Palatka’s Community Redevelopment Agency board members have discussed significant revision to the board’s membership.

But a memo from Palatka City Attorney Don Holmes, presented during the agency’s Monday evening meeting, might have slowed the occasional clarion call for change.

Holmes’ memo outlined the legal restrictions to changing the agency board’s composition.

The board consists of four Palatka commissioners, Mayor Terrill Hill, Putnam County Commissioner Karl Flagg and Downtown Palatka Inc.’s Sam Deputy.

For months, board members have discussed adding more members and removing city commissioners from the board. The reason, commissioners said, was because of duplicative functions. Agency board members make a decision, and those decisions are then voted on by city commissioners. Five elected Palatka officials serving on the board and as commissioners meant commissioners were voting on the same items twice.

But Holmes’ memo indicated commissioners’ participation on the agency board is an all-or-nothing proposition. If the commissioners and mayor wish to remove themselves from the board, none of them can serve. Additionally, the county commissioner serving on the board would also have to resign.

In other words, the agency board can be a commissioner-driven entity or no commissioners can serve on the board.

Holmes also noted the board should have a chairman or vice chairman. In most meetings, Hill has served as the chairman. Holmes and Assistant City Clerk Vicki Young said they don’t recall a vote to elect a chairman or vice chairman. In Monday’s meeting, board member and city commissioner James Norwood Jr. served as the acting chairman after Hill arrived a few minutes late to the meeting.

Holmes’ memo also found other issues with the agency board’s jurisdiction.

“It is my opinion that the ‘history’ of the creation of the CRA merits further review in order to assure that there is technical consistency between the resolutions, which declared the need for the RA and the resolutions by which the City Commission was designated as the CRA board,” Holmes wrote.

The biggest concern, Holmes noted, was the CRA’s boundaries. In documents Holmes reviewed, the CRA was created for need that existed to “certain areas” with the “downtown Palatka” area.

Holmes said city documents said the area is described as “bounded on the north by Madison Street, on the west by the SCL Railroad, on the south by Crill Avenue and Laurel Street east of Seventh Street, and on the east by the St. Johns River.”

Board members noted the agency has served areas outside those boundaries. During numerous agency board meetings, the target areas are described as the North Historic, South Historic and Central Business districts, but some of those areas might fall outside of the prescribed boundaries.

Holmes suggested the agency board “clean up” its boundaries.

Hill assigned a “homework assignment” for board members and city staff: Look into how the other 200-plus Community Redevelopment Agencies operate, whether through resident-or-business-owner-driven boards or through commissioner-driven operations. Hill suggested city staff identify the boundaries of the three districts, as well, and how they correlate with the agency’s prescribed boundaries.

Board members agreed to table discussion about a Community Redevelopment Agency administration position and planned revisions and creation of new districts until its next meeting.

The next scheduled meeting is Oct. 10.

Palatka Daily News

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Palatka, FL 32177
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