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CRA Going Away, But Officials Say Not Because Of FBI Probe

James Clarke Ash

Declaring mission accomplished, Leon County and Tallahassee officials are lowering the curtain on a downtown Community Redevelopment Agency.  At the same time, they stress the move has nothing to do with an ongoing FBI investigation into city backed development projects.

Wednesday marked the first CRA meeting since local officials and a handful of prominent developers received a flurry of FBI subpoenas. Leon County Commissioner Nick Maddox, who chairs the CRA board, tried to ease the tension. 

“First, before we begin, I would just like to acknowledge the elephant in the room relating to the news coverage of the reported investigation, the purview of which, might include business related to the downtown CRA.”

Maddox said he didn’t know what the FBI was investigating, but he promised the agency would remain transparent.

The board spent the next three hours discussing how to wind down the downtown CRA, but not before giving the staff permission to negotiate upscale developments near Cascades Park and the 400 block of North Monroe Street.

Maddox says the county wants out of the CRA before voters in November approve a legislative proposal to increase the homestead exemption. If it happens, the county could lose more than $7 million in tax revenue the first year.

Meanwhile, City Commissioner Curtis Richardson says now is the time to ramp up a new CRA for the impoverished south side.

“Time is of the essence. I think based on what’s going on with our current CRA and the investigation that’s underway, it may give impetus to the Legislature to eliminate CRAs.”

A Miami native, former WFSU reporter Jim Ash is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years of experience, most of it in print. He has been a member of the Florida Capital Press Corps since 1992.