A new program that would require developers to reinvest in the city of St. Pete under certain conditions is inching closer to reality.
On Thursday, the St. Pete City Council approved scheduling a public hearing for July 22 on the proposed community benefits agreement program.
Community benefit agreements are used by many cities to create a process that takes into account the social and community impact of a real estate development plan. The program was first introduced earlier this year.
The proposed program for St. Pete establishes a series of community benefits for projects that involve public-private partnerships. Under the plan, it would affect projects that receive more than 20% of public assistance, which can be in the form of incentives, for the overall construction cost of the project, or $10 million in assistance, regardless of construction costs.
“The community benefits agreement is an important step towards equitable economic development and smart growth for our entire community,” Ken Welch, who is a St. Pete mayoral candidate, said in a prepared statement. “Intentional equity requires us to demand that our partners who receive taxpayer dollars be held to a higher standard in the development and redevelopment of our great city. Affordable housing, improvements to our schools, and more resilient infrastructure all depend on this type of partnership.”
Beyond the monetary incentives, the city’s participation in projects could include a reduction in parking requirements, ad valorem tax exemptions or a transfer of city-owned property at less than appraised values, according to city documents.
Under the plan, developers would hold community meetings in the neighborhood impacted by their project to get residents’ input.
The program would also require a CBA advisory council to be created to advise city staff about the requirement. The advisory council would include eight community members and one city council member. Although there would be an advisory council created, it would not diminish the authority of the city council, which would have the final say on the agreements.
The city and developer would then negotiate a community benefits agreement that could involve direct investment in the neighborhood, such as park improvements or affordable housing.
A project involving multiple dwelling units with at least 30% of the dwelling units designated as affordable or workforce housing may be exempt. However, a Tropicana Field redevelopment project is ineligible for any exemptions, according to city documents.