Pinellas will not offer help for St. Pete Beach 'blight'

- Pinellas County commissioners declined Tuesday afternoon to declare part of St. Pete Beach "blighted," which would have provided funding for the beach town's Community Redevelopment Area (CRA). 

The boundaries of the CRA were set in 2006 after the town identified conditions that would qualify for city-county investments in public improvements. 

Under the plan rejected by the county, $75 million would be spent over the next 30 years to make roads safer for bicyclists and pedestrians, improve underground utilities and build a library and parking garage. 

"We're at a tipping point. We need you to take us over that edge," Mayor Maria Lowe pleaded with the commission Tuesday. "What we can't do under our current property tax structure is some of these investments.  And no, I don't want to raise the mileage rate just because I can raise it."

St. Pete Beach's property tax rate is 3.15 mills, which is about half of the county's mileage rate. That meant $50 million of the plan would be paid by the county and $25 million by the town. 

"You are asking us to commit a whole bunch of money, more than what your own city is willing to kick in," Commissioner Janet Long pointed out. 

St. Pete Beach's median household income of $63,000 a year and median home value of $330,000 also haunted the request.  Both are much higher than county averages. 

"You know you don't want to raise taxes any more than I do," Commissioner Pat Gerard told the mayor. "Some of the needs that you showed us before seem like general responsibilities of a municipality."

It was not immediately clear how the town would proceed, but the rejected plan suggests it has time to find another funding solution. A spending timeline showed only $500,000 needed in the first five years. Most of the $75 million would be spent 10 to 20 years from now.

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