I’m always leery when the government, federal, state, municipal, or city, tells me a "special assessment" on my property is justified because the taxing authority has stated I will have increased property value due to improvements made to transportation, infrastructure, etc.
Would that this were true; unfortunately, it is not. Improvements in much of the CRA area have been made and the roads are as clogged as ever, the water quality is still poor, I was forced to pay to have my utilities buried from the pole to our townhouse when we changed out the five-unit electric meter and breaker box, and yet utilities still have their power and cable structures overhead. What’s the point?
The CRA, while a good idea, is and was not created for the individual property owners that own all the parcels now being taxed to maintain the cosmetic improvements put in place to draw more tourists to the area. To overfill the roadways, to stress the water and power utility supply infrastructure, and to provide that "awesome vacation experience" for the visitors that suck up the infrastructure while here and then spit it back out when their week is up and leave it for the property owners to deal with and maintain.
This is not a rant about vacationers; I like vacationers. It is also not a rant about not wanting any progress in our fair city which I want and am willing to support if it actually is providing me, a property owner, with something of value. But it is about who should be paying for the brunt of the CRA beautification project to this "blighted" (and what stable genius used the word blighted to describe the CRA at the beach?).
This entire effort is a campaign to bring more tourism into the area and to shift an undue portion of the cost to small property owners when they are not the ones benefiting from the influx of people and the demands on the infrastructure made solely by that influx. Homeowners, property owners, residents use that infrastructure, but their numbers pale in comparison to the "record numbers" of tourists and visitors to the area that the TDC so often likes to brag about.
You see, it’s pretty simple; it’s a numbers game. The CRA was designed to attract millions of visitors, and it is those visitors that are benefiting from the infrastructure improvements, such as they are. Then it is those millions of tourists that should be shouldering the cost burden to provide and maintain those improvements, not the 12,000-plus parcels in the CRA.
The property owners have taken all the risks here, suffered the high cost of maintaining their "Salt Life," suffered through hurricanes, put up with the gridlock of too many people in too small of an area during the vaunted visitor season, and all along have paid their property taxes, school taxes (though few of us retirees have ever sent kids to school here), all with little complaint.
Show some courage and innovation for once and design a system that works for the property owners and not just for the tourist trade and their venue owners. Do that and maybe we’ll let you keep your jobs. Don’t do it and begin fluffing out your resumes because life could change for you sooner than you may have wished.
Editor’s note: Gordon Grail is a resident of Panama City Beach.