Activism

Debi for FWB City Council


* Better Quality of Life * Economic Growth
* Workforce
Affordable Housing * Workforce Development


Debi Riley is part of the FWB Lovejoy area redevelopment team and has been working 20+ years for a better Quality of Life for residents, and creating economic growth and opportunities for businesses in the City of Fort Walton Beach area. Below are some of the issues she has been involved with throughout the years.

CENSUS TRACT 219 RE-DESIGNATION

The past Census maps had the Lovejoy Road area in Tract 219 which also included areas outside of Sylvania Heights and WE Combs that have significantly different demographics. That worked against Sylvania Heights’ and WE Combs efforts to obtain grants for improvements.

Debi with other community stakeholders originally approached the local government about modifying the census maps as part of the 2010 Census but, unfortunately, it was too late in the process to do so. It was achieved as part of the 2020 Census with Debi leading a census outreach in the community.

The new map divides Tract 219 into 2 areas: 219.01 and 219.02. Tract 219.02 is the Lovejoy Road area portion, with 219.01 being the area north of Sylvania Heights and WE Combs, (resources: https://okaloosapa.com/general-information-county-census-data/) (see below).

BENEFITS of the Census Tract 219 re-designation:

  • Federal Funding

The results of the 2020 Census will inform decisions about allocating hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding to communities across the country—for hospitals, fire departments, school lunch programs, and other critical programs and services. Census results Impact Affordable Housing Program Allocations. (resources: https://2020census.gov/en/census-data.html)

  • HUBZone program (SBA uses federal census data to determine HUBZone areas.)

The HUBZone program fuels small business growth in historically underutilized business zones with a goal of awarding at least three percent of federal contract dollars to HUBZone-certified companies each year. Joining the HUBZone program makes your business eligible to compete for the program’s set-aside contracts. HUBZone-certified businesses also get a 10 percent price evaluation preference in full and open contract competitions. HUBZone-certified businesses can still compete for contract awards under other socio-economic programs they qualify for. (resources: https://www.sba.gov/about-sba/sba-locations/headquarters-offices/office-hubzone-program)

BROWNFIELDS PROGRAM DESIGNATION

Debi was instrumental, with other redevelopment team members, in getting a portion of the Lovejoy area designated as a Brownfields area, the first in Okaloosa County.

Brownfields are real properties where expansion, reuse, or redevelopment may be complicated by real or perceived environmental conditions. It is an incentive-driven program with financial enticement for redevelopment and liability relief when cleaning up any discovered contamination. A Brownfields designation opens the door to federal, state, and local incentives that might not otherwise be available, including job creation bonuses.

BENEFITS of the Brownfields Program designation:

  • Voluntary Cleanup Tax Credit Program

  • Federal Grants and Funding

  • Clean Water State Revolving Fund

  • Sales and Use Tax Exemption - Building Materials

  • Florida Neighborhood Revitalization Program Application for Sales and Use Tax

  • Florida Sales and Use Tax Application for Refund (resources: https://www.epa.gov/brownfields/overview-epas-brownfields-program)


OPPORTUNITY ZONE DESIGNATION


Debi was instrumental in the research and leadership to create the first Opportunity Zone in Okaloosa County.

An Opportunity Zone is a designation and investment program created by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 allowing for certain investments in lower income areas to have tax advantages. The purpose of this program is to put capital to work that would otherwise be locked up due to the asset holder's unwillingness to trigger a capital gains tax.

BENEFITS of the opportunity zone designation:


Opportunity Zones offer tax benefits to business or individual investors who can elect to temporarily defer tax on capital gains if they timely invest those gain amounts in a Qualified Opportunity Fund (QOF). Investors can defer tax on the invested gain amounts until the date they sell or exchange the QOF investment. (resources: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/opportunity-zones)


SITE STUDIES (RE-DEVELOPMENT AND ENVIRONMENTAL)

Debi Riley was instrumental with other redevelopment team members in acquiring funds and outside resources to complete redevelopment and environmental studies to relieve the financial pressure from residents for the cost of the studies.

  • Site History Search for Potential Brownfield Sites in the Lovejoy Community Prepared by Ecology and Report Prepared by: EarthTech.

  • The Love Community Revitalization Plan Prepared by Florida State University Department of Urban and Regional Planning (https://fpdl.coss.fsu.edu/studios/lovejoy-community-revitalization-plan)

  • Gap Greek Watershed Water Quality Improvement Project. Prepared by: HDR.

  • Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Proposal Waste Management Facility. Prepared by: Earth Tech, Inc.


BENEFITS of the studies:


Relieves the financial pressure from residents and the local government for the cost of the studies.