CRA continues to meet residents' needs — Miami (FL) Herald, 11/21/04

Letter to the editor

By Gary Wolforth

Director of Economic Development, North Miami Beach

In the course of public debate, the most important responsibility a government official has is to be truthful and forthright with the citizens he or she serves. Therefore, I am writing to address issues raised in Brian Rook's Nov. 7 letter [Beware: CRA could take your property], regarding the creation of a Community Redevelopment Agency in North Miami Beach.

In the letter, a concern was raised about the use of eminent domain. As most citizens are aware, governments have had the power of eminent domain since the adoption of the U.S. Constitution, and North Miami Beach has had this authority since it was incorporated in 1926. The only time the city has used eminent domain in all that time was to secure a vacant lot to build the police department headquarters.

It is the intent of the mayor and City Council to not use eminent domain to take any property that has Homestead Exemption. The mayor and Council have instructed me to ensure that the redevelopment plan they adopt clearly mandates this protection.

The CRA will not have the authority to acquire homestead-exempted properties from any owner who does not desire to sell his or her property. Any statement otherwise is false.

Additional concern has been raised regarding the creation of the CRA itself. CRAs have existed in Florida since 1969, and approximately 140 of them are in operation. Establishment of this agency will allow our city to capture tax dollars that would have normally gone to Miami-Dade County. Combined with the city's contribution, this money will be used for public improvements, property improvements and business development in the redevelopment area.

Numerous communities have improved themselves by using the resources provided to CRAs, including Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale, Delray Beach, West Palm Beach and Boca Raton.

The city's leadership is currently preparing a CRA plan that will meet the needs identified by the citizens through the public hearing process.

We welcome and urge continued participation and guidance from the citizens, property owners and business owners that this agency is designed to serve.

The Maimi Herals: www.miami.com