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Live Oak CRA

LIVE OAK — The City of Live Oak’s Community Redevelopment Agency is getting all dolled up and looking for a dance partner on redeveloping the Suwannee Packing property.

Gabrielle Redfern, the CRA’s executive director, discussed with the CRA board possible incentives it could offer to turn the empty property into a rental housing development.

The board will finalize the incentive package as part of the RFP at its November meeting.

Among the potential incentives discussed at the Sept. 24 meeting were transferring the property to the developer at a “very attractive price,” an expedited plan review on the project, the city supplying the infrastructure and the CRA paying fees for the building permit as well as tap and impact fees if the permit is issued within nine months of the development agreement and then potential cash incentives depending how fast the project is completed: $15,000 per unit if completed within 24 months, $10,000 per unit for 30 months and $5,000 per unit for 36 months.

Admitting it was a change of policy for the CRA board here, Redfern said the goal is to get the property developed and back on the tax rolls as well as potentially lead to more development in the future.

“We are going to incentivize housing,” she said. “We are going to welcome infill housing projects in this city. That’s what we’re going to do. I’m hoping people that have never thought of Live Oak before will come here, developers will come and look and say, ‘Wow. There’s a lot of infill to be done here.’ If they get this, maybe they’ll buy a couple lots and do something else.

“This is really dressing ourselves up and making ourselves look good at the dance. And hopefully we’ll fill our dance card.

But we’re spending a lot of money at the salon to look good.”

Board members Bruce Tillman and Cindy Robinson questioned whether the CRA should be compensated should the chosen developer flip the property shortly after its completion at a great profit, considering the CRA would basically be giving the land away.

Calling it a “very robust and aggressive incentive” package, Redfern said from her viewpoint, the board shouldn’t be concerned with a business profiting off the development of the property into an eight-unit rental housing development — which will be a requirement for development as well as utilizing the city’s complete package of utilities, providing access to Heritage Trail and the board retaining approval of the architectural designs of the units.

“I think we can’t fear other people making money,” she said, reiterating the goal is to provide housing, return the property to the tax rolls and create new customers for the city’s utilities. “I think what the CRA is here to do is to make strategic investments in our community that encourages the business community. And the business community is here to make money.

“So if we have to spend money and somebody else spends money and everybody makes money, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.”

Board chair David Burch asked if these types of incentives were normal.

Redfern said they weren’t. Rather, she said, other CRAs that purchase and clear property for future development try to recover their costs.

“We wanted to make ours more attractive in the market place by realizing that we are not going to recoup our investment in our land and demolition costs,” she said. “This is really just to incentivize and make aware the building community that Live Oak is here and ready for development.”

Jamie Wachter is the editor of the Suwannee Democrat, Jasper News and Mayo Free Press.

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