Out of bounds? City mulls $10 million investment in Camillus House project
By Yudislaidy Fernandez
The Overtown Community Redevelopment Agency has asked the state attorney general whether the agency can invest up to $10 million in tax funds for construction of the new Camillus House — outside the agency's redevelopment boundaries.
The Miami City Commission, acting as the Southeast Overtown/Park West Community Redevelopment board, is seeking a second opinion following one from a law firm.
City Attorney Julie Bru said a legal opinion the city requested from law firm GrayRobinson last year on a similar issue determined that "under certain circumstances it is appropriate to use funds outside the boundaries..."
The redevelopment agency board is now asking Attorney General Bill McCollum if it can use district-collected tax increment funds to help Camillus House, currently at 726 NE First Ave., build its new $60 million complex between 15th and 17th streets on Northwest Seventh Street. The site is outside Overtown's redevelopment district but within the proposed expanded boundaries.
The city commission in March approved a finding of necessity study to expand the boundaries of the Overtown/Park West agency, but the item awaits county commission approval.
As a non-profit, the new Camillus House would not contribute to the Overtown agency's tax base.
The redevelopment agency fills its coffers by capping the value of real property in the area and collecting the increment above the cap to fund agency projects as property values rise. The agency's main public purpose is preventing and eliminating slum and blight.
Camillus House officials say the new, bigger complex is to help eliminate slum and blight by providing assistance to homeless in the Overtown area but also around Omni.
Officials are asking Omni's Community Redevelopment Agency to also step in to fund its relocation, even though the center sits outside its existing boundaries.
Miami's redevelopment agencies have never funded projects outside agency bounds, nor outside their individual boundaries, said Executive Director Jim Villacorta. "Usually CRA funds have to be spent within the boundaries."
Spokesman Sam Gil said when the new center rises many people from both agencies' districts are to come to Camillus House for shelter and assistance.
"It makes sense if we are taking care of the homeless," he said.
Homeless people the organization serves don't only come from one redevelopment district, said Paul R. Ahr, Camillus House president and CEO.
Camillus landowners have pledged proceeds from sale of the existing shelter to build the new facility, which is to house a courtyard for homeless who don't want to sleep indoors, an auditorium, a chapel, a pet kennel and a food service/fitness center/library building.
If the redevelopment agencies consider approval of $10 million in tax increment funding for Camillus House's new complex, Mr. Villacorta said, the funding could come in installments or from a future bond issuance.
"It's not clear yet," he added.
He said the attorney general needs at least 30 days to review the request.