Lake City Planning for Future Downtown
County Commission MIA
Columbia County, FL (Posted June 25, 2010 10:20 am)
At yesterday morning’s governmental focus group
the Columbia County Commission was invited and
chose not show up, not to send the County
Manager or any other representative of the
County government. The lack of County interest
in the downtown of Lake City continues.
Thursday morning Lake City's Community
Redevelopment Agency met with governmental
leaders to discuss the downtown redevelopment
plan for Lake City. IBI's master planner,
Kurt Easton, led the focus group. Billed as
a governmental focus group, Lake City was
represented by the Mayor, City Manager,
Councilman Ward and City Clerk Audrey Sikes and
others. Neither County Manager Dale Williams,
nor any County Commissioner made an appearance.
City Manager Wendell Johnson told the group, "I
wish the county was here -- they were invited."
For more on the LC CRA and master plan go
Mr. Easton explained the Community
Redevelopment Agency (CRA):
The CRA is defined
by a border based on slum and blight. It is
defined in the Florida statutes. When the area
is defined the value is defined by the tax base.
As the program evolves year after year,
presumably the value increases over time, by
appreciation and if the program is successful,
through development and investment. As the area
improves, the tax base, or the value increases.
The difference between the base year tax value
and the increase over time is called the tax
increment. That is folded into a trust fund and
those resources are allocated to projects that
are identified in your plan. (Still confused?
For the past five years the revenues of Lake
City's CRA have been about $200,000 a year.
Mr. Easton: "At $200,000 we are not talking
about a substantial amount of revenue,
especially if you are talking about capital
improvements, so we are trying to build the tax
base, which will increase the amount of revenue
to work with."
Mr. Easton explained that yesterday's focus
group of business leaders thought that public
safety and crime in the northern Lake City area
was a problem.
Mr. Easton: "People seem to think that
until we remove the crime or perception of crime
in that area, the program will not be
Chief Gilmore explained the police are at work:
"We have stats on that... the quality of life
in the area is the problem."
Mr. Easton said that tax increment revenue
can be used to support the police.
Police Chief Gilmore: "If we can create a
new atmosphere things will turn around."
There is no public transportation to bring
people to work
Mendoza of Florida Crown's Employer Services
represented Florida Crown at the meeting.
Ms. Mendoza brought up the important issue of
transportation. She explained that a lot of
people don’t have cars or driver's licenses and
if they want to get to work, they can’t get
there because there is no public transportation.
Suwannee Valley Transit, run out of Live Oak,
is the area's local transit agency. It is poorly
run, does not take advantage of the funding
streams that are available to it and now only
transfers Medicaid and medical patients,
refusing to pick up any other passengers on its
Mr. Easton said that a basic public
transportation system would go a long way.
The City Utility
Mr. Easton: "There was concern voiced
yesterday about the city’s utility distribution
Manager Wendell Johnson: "There is a
misconception about the condition of the city’s
utility infrastructure. We have a brand new
water plant that has capacity for the next
fifteen years, not only for the city, but for
large portions of the county as well. We will
have a new waste water treatment plant with a
permitted capacity of 3,000,000 gallons with a
design capacity for six. We’ve laid the
foundation for funding... I am convinced that
our transmission lines are not going to be an
impediment to the development in the CRA."
City Manager Johnson concluded: "I hope
that whatever we do that we take into
consideration that we need to have goals and
objectives for the redevelopment of the
Lake City's popular Mayor Steve Witt:
"I think that it is a great thing that we are
doing. We have a lot of potential. It is a good
time to deal with the negatives."
City Manager Johnson: "We have a
reserve fund that can have an impact if it is
used wisely. I have a vision of getting
Mr. Easton explained that since he has been
in Lake City he keeps hearing, "Keep government
Mr. Easton said, "We want to keep government
"It takes strong leadership and fortitude."
an example of what it takes to succeed, Mr.
Easton spoke about another community IBI is
currently working with: They are
committed... They put their money where their
mouth is... They follow through. It is fortitude
Mr. Easton: "For these things to be
successful everybody has to work together and
come together. It takes strong leadership and
fortitude in making tough policy decisions as
you move forward."
After the meeting CRA Director, Jackie Kite,
could barely contain her enthusiasm: "I'm
excited. I'm very, very excited. We are moving
forward and I am excited about Lake City."