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CRA discusses downtown

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By Pat Hibbs

Williston's Community Redevelopment Agency lacked a quorum at its Monday meeting, but the attending members discussed upcoming business nonetheless.

The CRA's Feb. 11 meeting is to be conducted as a workshop to produce an updated plan. The CRA had agreed with David Connolly, Withlacoochee Regional Planning Council Senior Planner, that the document, produced in 2002, was in need of revision, based on progress thus far and on costs of materials and services which have, of course, risen since the inception of the plan.

The 2002 document is specific to a fault, containing, for example, costs for specific items like benches for the Linear Park beautification and long out-of-date estimates for incoming TIF funds.

But those are not the issues Connolly and the panel intend to address. The CRA is more interested in updating its project and activity implementation schedule.

As an example, the plan recommended acquisition of the Thomas property at Noble Avenue and Northwest First Street. No chance now - that's where Walgreens will open in the spring.

On a more positive note, the plan called for "partial Linear Park improvements" in years19-21 (or, beginning in 2021), but that's already begun, thanks to the cooperation of a UF landscape architecture class project completed last year. The CRA expects to expand its activities to complete, over the next few years, the vision created in last year's project.

Parking, sidewalks and public safety (crossing the street can be a hazard) were also concerns expressed by the panel.

So the Feb. 11 workshop will take advantage of hindsight and experience to realign the priorities anticipated at the plan's inception. The members present at the meeting reaffirmed their strong support for improvement of Linear Park, based on last year's study.

They also stressed maintaining the unique character of the town, especially in the critical downtown district. This concern is exacerbated by the possible sale of the central block that currently houses city hall. The possibility of moving the city offices to the end of Linear Park (the former Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) gives rise to concern about the appearance of the center of the city in the not-too-distant future.

There is currently a vacancy on the CRA, which is the visionary arm of city government. Members need not live within the city limits, but must be engaged in business in the city to qualify. Call Terry Summers at 528-3060 for more information.