City Takes First Step to Redeveloping Waterfront; Fernandina Beach: Study Finds Worst-Off Areas

Article excerpt

Byline: Alison Trinidad, Nassau Neighbors staff writer

A University of Florida study has identified "slum" and "blighted" areas along the Amelia River waterfront in Fernandina Beach, which experts say makes the area ideal for redevelopment.

Rhonda Phillips, director for the Center for Building Better Communities at the University of Florida, presented the results of the $10,000 study to city commissioners Tuesday.

The study is the first step in creating a Community Redevelopment Agency for the waterfront area, a move that commissioners have said is necessary to pay for waterfront improvements.

Commissioners are expected to formally approve the results at a future meeting.

City leaders hope to restore the Amelia River waterfront as an economic hub for Fernandina Beach, once the heart of a booming shrimping industry. Abandoned buildings and rickety piers remain where once there was a bustling waterfront.

A Community Redevelopment Agency raises money by freezing the property tax base within a project area that has been designated as "blighted." Additional taxes from increased property values are spent on improvements.

With the property tax base frozen, all the taxing entities that receive property tax -- schools, municipalities, special districts -- continue to receive the same share of property tax they received in the year when the plan took effect. Any property tax raised above the base year amount goes to the CRA.

"CRAs can be a very powerful tool for community revitalization," Phillips said. …

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