ORLANDO, Fla. - Mayor Jerry Demings remembers the International Drive tourist before tax dollars were used to fight blight in the area.
"The area was not pristine," he said. "Tourists would not have gone to that area."
A special tax district called the International Drive Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) was created in the late 1990s to pump millions of dollars back to the I-Drive area to improved roads, sidewalks, medians, and public transportation.
The tax district is set to go away in 2028, and now, commissioners air discussing if they should let that happen or if extend it another 12 years.
County Commissioner Victora Siplin was very vocal in support of keeping the CRA.
"I think dis-banning this particular CRA is a dangerous move and we cannot afford to not protect the future of what happens to our largest tax base here in Orange County," Siplin said. "I think that’s what our position is as board members is to make sure we keep a very viable area growing because it is important to Orange County. But yet we create a structure where we’re also taking care of the needs of residents."
Commissioner Emily Bonilla is not so sure.
"This plan here, we do not need a CRA to implement this plan if this is really what we care about," Bonilla said.
If the CRA stays, Commissioner Bonilla would like to see the majority of tax dollars used more to create roe affordable housing and further improve public transportation for people who work at I-Drive businesses.
After a lengthy discussion, Mayor Demings said it is clear there needs to be a balance to get the majority of the commission on board.
"We want a healthy balance between a benefit to the corporate community, to the residents of Orange County to include the workers," the mayor said.
Commissioners will have another month to look further into studies and research county staff presented to them Tuesday. They’re scheduled to discuss the CRA again at another workshop April 13. A date for a vote has not yet been set.
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