Some of you may have seen some back-and-forth on social media about changes on the board of the Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA). What follows is a primer on what you should know about this controversy, and how it will affect our community.
What is the CRA?
CRA Stands for Community Redevelopment Agency. Delray Beach and many larger cities and towns have their own CRA. According to their website, the mission of the CRA is “To foster and directly assist in the redevelopment of the Community Redevelopment Area in order to eliminate blight, create a sustainable downtown and encourage economic growth…” The CRA Board of Commissioners has the responsibility to approve funds and projects that are consistent with this mission. The CRA is a separate taxing district, so all businesses and households in the area covered by the CRA are levied additional taxes.
What is covered by Delray Beach’s CRA?
The area under CRA authority (see above) is an extensive area that roughly overlaps the downtown area plus the northern branch of Federal highway. However, most of the discussion about CRA project centers around the traditionally minority districts noted by Sub Areas 3, 4 and 8. Importantly the West Settler’s Historic District, Frog Alley, Historic Carver High School and dozens of churches (The Set), make up the center of commerce and community for African Americans in the city.
What kind of things does the CRA do?
Example projects would be to help fund renovations to the facades of prominent buildings in the area, business assistance and or housing on CRA property that will enhance the community or coordinate solicitations to develop larger parcels of property within the CRA. The CRA also subsidizes non-profits in the district such as Spady Cultural Heritage Museum and Arts Garage. The CRA also produces economically impactful community events such as the Delray BeachGreen Market.
What is the current CRA controversy that I have been reading about?
The City Commissioners voted by a 4-1 margin to reduce the size of the CRA Board from seven to five members. The two seats eliminated were the two appointed positions, while the remaining five seats are held by the five Delray Beach Commissioners. The 5/2 split was a fairly recent development, as up through March 2018, the CRA Board consisted of seven (7) appointed seats. This change was controversial in its own right, as it was done without notice to the public as an agenda item and without public hearings.
To summarize: the CRA Board was independent with seven members for 33 years prior to the commission taking over in 2018. From 2018-2023 it was a five elected/two appointed positions to its current format of only five seats and only the elected commissioners.
Why is this controversial?
Critics of this move suggest that elimination of the appointed position remove important voices that represent the area covered by the CRA specifically. Further, opponents of the measure contend that these five elected officials on the board are not able to sufficiently focus on the needs of the CRA. They also suggest that there was some political retribution in this move, as one of the eliminated seats was held by Angie Gray, who ran unsuccessfully for the City Commission in 2023.
What do supporters have to say?
The supporters of this move ultimately want to get the board back to being more representative of the community served by the CRA. This will be done by setting up an advisory committee who will make recommendations to the CRA Board. In theory, the CRA Board will mostly follow the recommendations of this advisory board. The obvious question, is “why not just return the CRA Board back to fully appointed positions?” The answer is a bit odd, according to the city attorney state law prohibits returning a CRA Board to a fully appointed structure once there is a vote to add members of the governing body to the board, in this case the Delray Beach City Commission.
What suggests that the current makeup of the CRA Board isn’t being representative?
The most obvious evidence is that the primary goal of the CRA, “eliminate blight,” has not been accomplished in The Set area in the 35+ years since the CRA has been in existence, and there is no activity to suggest things will change anytime soon. About eight years ago, the independent CRA Board financed The Set Transformation Plan, and there are many members of the community that would like to see the original plan implemented.
Friends of Delray supports this sentiment, and we will continue to monitor the progress of this new structure to the CRA.
Correction: In a prior email about the Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) we identified the CRA as a separate taxing district within the City. The Florida statutes talk about CRA funding from "Tax Increment Revenues," which sure sounds like a taxing district, but alas, it is not. The CRA receives funds from a combination of normal taxation within the CRA area and supplemental revenue from the County.
Clarification: The CRA email also discussed the controversy about the makeup of the CRA Board. One of the Commissioners sent us a note about the issue, and it appears there's not a whole lot to debate: the City doesn't have a choice based on past actions. Here's what we received:
"The City Attorney read a memo from the Attorney General Moody that said we definitely can't go back to an independent CRA (all 4 commissioners [in favor of the measure] were interested in reverting back [to a fully independent board], but it's legitimately not an option). The CRA has to follow the Florida Statute or we get audited or dissolved altogether. The statute allows for 2 at-large members in addition to the sitting commissioners at the time a CRA is established or an entirely independent board. The statute does allow for an independent board to elect to (irreversibly) switch to just the elected body, but just the elected body. Nowhere does the statute allow for 2 at-large members if the board is switching from independent to the elected body...so it was never really above board that we had the 2 at-large members since the switch. That's why we changed it."
FOD apologizes for the confusion.
Friends of Delray