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Largo clears downtown financing plan
Largo is one step closer to providing new incentives for businesses
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Largo Fire Rescue honored Scott Tiffany, left, as Firefighter of the Year and Sandy Sanders as Fire Service Employee of the Year during the March 18 Largo Commission meeting.
The Largo Police Department honored, from left, Volunteer of the Year Frank Leverone, service worker Generoso DeLillo as Civilian of the Year, and Nicholas Cusumano as Officer of the Year during the March 18 commission meeting. Not pictured is Sergeant John Sevos, who was named Supervisor of the Year.
LARGO – The funding to allow new economic development incentives for Largo’s downtown district passed through quickly March 18. The city now is one step closer to being the first in the Tampa Bay market to offer the “unique incentives,” Economic Development Manager Teresa Brydon said.

A resolution allowing the incentives will be up for the commissioners’ consideration April 1, she said. During that meeting, the city will appoint members to the newly established community development advisory board.

Then the city will be able to accept applications for the new incentives, which are designed to encourage more infill housing, new mixed used development with office space and more jobs within the West Bay Drive Community Redevelopment District.

Brydon said staff picked up on those three measures specifically, after seeing how the cities of Fort Lauderdale and Delray Beach were able to promote growth within their redevelopment districts.

“It was obvious the success that they had with those,” Brydon said. “You can just see over the course of the last five to seven years, the growth was been phenomenal in those markets.”

The incentives tap into tax increment financing, generated through and within the redevelopment districts. The ordinance passed March 18 allows $80,000 of the district’s budget to be set aside for these incentives.

The process to create the new incentive programs began more than a year ago. Commissioners debated only one of the four incentives, one for businesses within specified industries that move to the district and create jobs that pay 115 percent of the county’s annual average wage. Those who qualify could apply for a grant paid over five years and capped at $10,000 per job or $50,000 per year for all jobs created.

Under the proposed measure, grants also would be given for each new residential unit and for the improvement or construction of a minimum of 15,000 square feet of office space.

The final incentive brings the district in line with the rest of the city, offering $200 to cover the permitting and planning fees associated with the construction of new monument signs.

Since the city commissioners’ first reading Oct. 1, the measures have been approved by Pinellas Planning Council as well as county commissioner.

Brydon said her team was excited to be able to offer those grants to businesses.

Full time staff considered for park

Friends of Largo Nature Parks President Pat Edmond made a plea that commissioners begin funding at least one full-time staff person at McGough Nature Park.

“We could certainly use those additional hours,” she said.

Mayor Pat Gerard echoed her request later in the meeting, explaining that the volunteers had proven themselves by stepping up to fill the gap in funding.

“They’ve been amazing,” she said.

City Manager Mac Craig said staff already was looking into funding a full-time position within next year’s budget.

“We will be bringing you a prioritized list of all the departments and what they want and what we think we can afford,” he said. “We will include someone from parks in there.”

In other business, commissioners:

• passed the final reading of an ordinance prohibiting smoking in outdoor park structures

• honored police and fire annual awards recipients

• began the process of annexing 12 properties.
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