By Patrick McCallister
For Hometown News
DELAND -- Local businessman Mark Shuttleworth paid the city $25,000 for a house and got $20,000 back for repairing it.
"We did not put in (the sale contract) or stipulate that he could not apply for any other grants the city might have available," Leigh Matusick, commissioner and Community Redevelopment Agency member, said. "We advertised the money was there and didn't say (he) couldn't do it."
Ms. Matusick joined with three other members of the CRA to approve the grant at its last regular meeting, Feb. 4. Three voted against. Ms. Matusick said the vote gave her heartburn, but she felt morally bound because Mr. Shuttleworth had followed existing rules.
Back in June, the city commission sold Mr. Shuttleworth a two-story, historic home for $25,000. That's about $75,000 less than the property's assessed value, but $15,000 more than Mr. Shuttleworth offered the city the previous month.
Commissioner Phil Martin was the lone dissenter to the sale.
The home at 117 W. Howry Ave -- often called the Buckner Property -- has been used as a residence, an office building and a retail shop. It was built about a century ago. It has been vacant for about a decade. The city got complaints about the overgrown lawn and cut it a few times. To get payment, the city placed a lien on the property. That house went into foreclosure and the city found itself on the courthouse steps in November 2011, trying to auction the property.
The city advertised the property for bids.
Mr. Shuttleworth was the only respondent. The property is on the southern border of his 112 W. Georgia Ave. property, which has his store, Florida Victorian Architectural Antiques, and Cafe DaVinci.
In an interview after the meeting, Mr. Shuttleworth said he's restoring the Howry Avenue home to lease it for light production and sales of art. He estimated it will cost about $80,000 to $100,000 to restore the old house, about $20,000 more than he'd expected going into the project.
Mr. Shuttleworth also was the only applicant for the $20,000 pot of possible grants for repairing buildings in the community redevelopment area, which runs along Woodland Boulevard.
"I've been here 25 years as a taxpayer paying into that," he said. "This is where the money has to be spent. The city can't take those funds and use them outside the CRA. It has to be spent downtown in the designated area."
The grant comes at a time when the county is taking a closer look at how community redevelopment area funds are spent and contemplating changes. Cities must apply to the county to create CRAs. Businesses and residents in a CRA district pay the regular county tax rates others do. However, county taxes paid on property values higher than what they were the year a CRA started go to the city to spend only in that district for economic development and blight elimination. There are 15 CRAs in Volusia among eight cities.
Mr. Shuttleworth, the former mayor of Lake Helen, said the city had only a couple thousand dollars of costs for legal, clerical and maintenance on the property, and it would have likely cost about $30,000 to remove the house. Before he purchased it, the city commission discussed tearing it down and turning the property into a parking area.
"This is a building that was deteriorating when the city owned it," Mr. Shuttleworth said. "This is a reimbursement grant. I have to spend it first to get it. It's not like they're going to just hand me money. It's based on fulfilling the commitment I made to (the city) to develop it for office space and sales area."