Council Approves First Financing for Cyber-Library

   A six-member Homestead City Council accepted the first New Market Tax Credit (NMTC) financing that allows the planned

cyber-library to begin construction. 

   The tax credit program was created under a 2000 federal act to stimulate community development and allows investors a dollar-for-dollar decrease in their federal tax

liability.  . 

   Banco Popular provided Homestead’s first commitment letter, agreeing to provide up to $8 million for the project of its $70 million NMTC allocation.  That funding comes with a $1.4 million subsidy for Cybrary technology and equipment.

   A non-profit corporation, Cybrary Inc., must be formed to serve as a funding conduit as a qualified low-income community business entity.  This non-profit was the actual basis for the Council resolution to reserve the funding offer. 

   City Manager George Gretsas explained the financing for the project.  “There are three sources of funding  - funds within the City’s control, the New Market Tax Credit with a goal of $4 million (shooting for $6 million), and an outside investor,” he said.  “We’re not spending any City money until the search is exhausted for the other sources.”

   “When we started we weren’t sure how much we’d get in tax credits because it’s a highly competitive system,” Gretsas said.  “So what Council is saying tonight to Banco Popular is yes we’re interested in reserving this and moving forward with the process.”

   Councilwoman Patricia Fairclough asked about the City’s $20,000 deposit to move forward.  Staff explained that it was a refundable deposit but if the City dropped out, the entity’s legal costs were deducted before any refund. 

   The $31 million construction project (with Homestead Station) still seeks additional private investment to fulfill its vision as the prototype of a futuristic inter-active library. 

   Council approved the resolution unanimously and also approved the Site Plan for Axiom Construction to build both the Cybrary and the Homestead Station complex.

   The parking structure associated with the project is now set to provide 1429 spaces, up from the 1100 minimum required in the first plans.    .

Vice Mayor and Councilman Stephen Shelley asked when the project was to break ground.  Staff said January 2018 was the goal and a representative of Axiom present said construction would take fourteen to sixteen months.  The City Manager said tentative completion for the moment is expected as the first quarter of 2019.

   Council considered the certificate of use, waiver of location and waiver of hours as a package for a new banquet facility at 128 and 144 NE 8th Street (Campbell Drive).  Patrons bring their own liquor to the events hall for service by staff so it is not sold, permitting a waiver of location for being next to a school - the MDC campus.  The owner wants to continue operation until 3 AM to provide for weddings and similar events.  Capacity for the hall is about five hundred people. 

   Councilman Larry Roth said the situation was different from a sports bar and their related problems.  Councilwoman Fairclough agreed and supported the right to stay open late. 

   Councilman Jon Burgess asked Police Chief Al Rolle about the reports and police calls from places open that late.  The Chief suggested that off-duty officers could provide security to recognize any issues before they became negative.  Mayor Jeff Porter endorsed that concept as a practical solution.

Council ultimately agreed to the three-pronged resolution but amended it to require off-duty police security after midnight.  The applicant agreed to the amendment.  

   A proposal to divide a property on US 1 at SE 6th Street to build O’Reilly’s Auto Parts store was granted approval, including a provision for a right of way agreement for future road improvements.  The store will feature twenty-nine parking spaces and construction includes an alley behind the property stretching to Lucy Street.  . 

   Center States Bank, successor to 1st National Bank of Homestead, requested two changes for parcels of property around its 16th Street location, where several houses were allowed to be used as office space.  The bank is preparing the properties for sale.

Councilman Shelley cautioned that bank neighbors were already concerned about businesses operating in a residential area.  He said the B1 zoning permitted other uses, and suggested a more restrictive designation of B1A zoning.  Councilman Burgess agreed that a stricter standard would prohibit heavier uses.  The bank’s attorney said they did not oppose the change.  Council approved both amended agenda items. 

Council moved quickly to approve Councilman Shelley’s reserved parking for military personnel and veterans as a voluntary program to recognize military service.

   Agenda items were approved to update the City’s comprehensive capital improvement plan, accept a budget amendment fund rollover from 2017, approve Council’s consent calendar, and spend $89,366 for twenty-five police multi-band radios. 

    Council also approved moving $5 million from its 2017 General Fund to current Disaster Relief funding, to balance the budget years, anticipating reimbursement by FEMA for additional storm-related expenses.   

Council agreed to endorse the School Board’s legislative priorities.  These include a 5% annual  increase in base student allocation to enhance teach salaries, and hurricane recovery issues such as extending the time for testing windows.  Council also agreed to endorse the Florida League of Cities resolution backing the state’s 222 active CRA programs.