by LISA MACNEIL
At the regular meeting on Jul 19, 2021The Brooksville City Council voted 3-2 to deny a $340,000 funding request to kick off redevelopment of the property located at Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Drive and Hale Avenue, historically named Summit Villas. Council Members David Bailey and Blake Bell were the two opposing votes.
Donnie Singer, Executive Director of the Brooksville Housing Authority (BHA) and Joe Chambers, Director of Calston advisors and representing Fortis Development once again approached the council with the request, which was first submitted but withdrawn in late 2020.
Language in the request gave Mayor Pat Brayton pause, as it seemed to allow for open-ended payback terms. Brayton read, “Yearly payments with flexible interest are paid from 25% of available cash flow as defined by the limited partnership agreement … That scares me.” Brayton added that he approves of the project, just not the repayment terms. He went on to say that the city currently anticipates spending $300,000 on other projects.
Chambers answered that most local governments fund these types of projects as grants, and said this is the first time he has had experience with a loan arrangement. “We’re happy to work with the city if your concern is the lack of repayment,” said Chambers.
Built in the 60s, the housing development fell into disrepair and its final residents moved out in 2012. Fortis’ plan is to raze the existing buildings and construct a 3 story housing complex to cater to low-income seniors over 62. The project is estimated to cost $20 million. BHA and Fortis will need to obtain financing from both public and private sources, including $2.3 million in tax credits. Each funding source has a set of criteria and some, such as the Florida Housing Finance Corporation (FHFC), prefer projects that have support from local government before approving low-income housing tax credits (LIHTC).
Following the meeting, Singer, Chambers and BHA Board member Francine Ward spoke to The Hernando Sun, expressing their disappointment in the outcome.
“One word. Shortsighted,” Singer said of the council’s decision. “I understand where they’re coming from with wanting to get their money back, but I don’t think they understand how the state requires financing.”
Ward and Chambers added that the benefits of the project potentially increases revenue coming into Brooksville should the housing project start construction. “You've got laborers on site, building the project, you've got materials being purchased and you've got full-time jobs. You've got a property manager, system manager, maintenance guys ... you've got people there contributing back to the community.”
Chambers said that they plan to resubmit the request in 2022, since the request submittal is limited to once per year. “We’re stubborn. We’ll be back.”