PUBLISHER’S COMMENT:  The opinions and conclusions contained in the article below are those of the author and not those of BocaWatch or its management .  Over the last few months, Eminent Domain, as path to the acquisition of Ocean Breeze Golf Course, has been openly discussed and debunked. BocaWatch does not support the Eminent Domain option.  With the significant public interest surrounding the Ocean Breeze topic, BocaWatch chose to publish Ms. Teller’s article in an effort to determine whether there is measurable public sentiment to further explore the possibility.  Your comments and opinions are sought and welcomed.   Al Zucaro, Publisher

The Boca Raton Beach & Parks District is urging the City to fund the purchase of the abandoned Ocean Breeze golf course and hotel property. The Parks District wants to use the property for a municipal golf course and golf academy (including a hotel).

Sounds good, right? Who doesn’t want golf?

But there is a big problem with the proposed transaction.

The Parks District, at the urging of its Executive Director, Arthur Koski, is asking the City to pay $24 million for a property appraised at no more than $5.7 million.

Background

Lennar Homes (a major developer) has an existing option to purchase the abandoned Ocean Breeze golf course and adjacent hotel property from the current owner (Wells Fargo). (The Ocean Breeze golf course is located on both sides of NW 2nd Ave, just south of Jeffrey St., inside the Boca Teeca development. (map)).

In early 2017, the Parks District requested and received an independent appraisal of the Ocean Breeze golf course property (including the adjacent hotel property). The appraisal (prepared by Callaway and Price) concluded that the combined Ocean Breeze property had a value of $5.7 million.

And yet, later in February, the Parks District’s Executive Director accepted Lennar’s offer to sell Ocean Breeze to the Parks District for $24 million — $18.3 million more than the appraised value.

Why is the Parks District promoting such a lousy deal?

Ironically, the Parks District holds all the cards in any negotiation for the Ocean Breeze property.

The Ocean Breeze property is subject to a restrictive covenant that prohibits the use of the property for anything other than a golf course. As a result, unless a majority of Boca Teeca unit owners agree to allow Lennar to build housing on the property, Lennar can’t use the property for anything other than a golf course — making Lennar’s option essentially worthless.

Moreover, the Parks District holds the ultimate trump card: eminent domain. (In a legal memorandum, the Park District’s outside legal counsel concluded that “the taking of the Ocean Breeze golf course by eminent domain is a legally available option for the District, subject to the concurrence of the City Council of Boca Raton . . . “)

Even a serious threat of an eminent domain proceedings would bring Lennar to the table to negotiate a reasonable purchase price.

And, if the threat does not suffice, an actual eminent domain proceeding would result in the Parks District obtaining the property at a reasonable price, most likely by settlement, but if necessary by judgment.

Who is negotiating on behalf of the public?

Lennar made its $24 million offer in February. There is no evidence in the public record that the Parks District’s Executive Director made a counteroffer or other serious attempt to negotiate with Lennar for a reasonable price.

The good news: the proposed deal requires the approval of Boca Raton City Council

City Council has not yet agreed to the sweetheart deal which the Parks District is proposing.

City Council will consider the matter in a joint meeting with the Parks District on May 8. The public is invited. (The time and date are below.)

What You Can Do

It’s time to shine the light of common sense on the proposed acquisition of Ocean Breeze.

Let’s begin by asking Arthur Koski, the Parks District’s Executive Director:

  1. Why did the Executive Director encourage the Commissioners to overpay for the Ocean Breeze property?
  2. Why did the Executive Director dismiss the idea of using an eminent domain proceeding to obtain a reasonable price?
  3. Whether the Executive Director or anyone else connected with the Park’s District (or any member of their families) has a relationship with Lennar or otherwise stands to personally benefit from the transaction? (This includes any relationship with the the Greg Norman Golf Academy, to whom it appears that the Parks District’s Executive Director is intent on providing a sole-source contract for some or all of the operations of the golf course.)
  4. Why is the Executive Director insisting on also acquiring the hotel property adjacent to the Ocean Breeze golf course? Why does the Parks District’s Executive Director want the Parks District (or the City) to get into the hotel business?
  5. Why has the Parks District’s Executive Director, at multiple public meetings, utterly failed to present a coherent rationale for wanting to overpay for the Ocean Breeze property?

Contact your public officials

Now is the time to tell the Mayor and City Council that they should not allow themselves to be pushed into grossly overpaying for the Ocean Breeze property. It is also time to tell the Commissioners of the Beach & Parks District that they have made a big mistake in approving the deal struck by their Executive Director.

The names and email addresses of our elected officials are below. Please feel free to call or write them.

City of Boca Raton- 561-393-7708
Mayor Susan Haynie – shaynie@ci.boca-raton.fl.us
Deputy Mayor Jeremy Rodgers – jrodgers@ci.boca-raton.fl.us
Councilmember Andrea O’Rourke – AORourke@ci.boca-raton.fl.us,
Councilmember Scott Singer – ssinger@ci.boca-raton.fl.us
Councilmember Robert Weinroth – rweinroth@ci.boca-raton.fl.us,
BocaCM@ci.boca-raton.fl.us

Boca Raton Beach & Parks District: 561-417-4599
Commissioner Steve Engel – sengel@mybocaparks.org
Commissioner Craig Ehrnst – cehrnst@mybocaparks.org
Commissioner Robert K. Rollins, Jr. – rrollins@mybocaparks.org
Commissioner Susan Vogelgesang – svogelgesang@mybocaparks.org,
Commissioner Erin Wright – ewright@mybocaparks.org

I would appreciate receiving a copy of any emails you send. My email address is: Judith.Teller@Teller-Kaye.com.

And if you want your comments public, please feel free to share them on our Facebook page.

Attend the upcoming public meetings:

Beach & Parks District Public meeting
Mon, May 1, 5:15 pm – 7:15 pm
Sugar Sand Park
300 S Military Trail, Boca Raton (map)

Joint City Council and Parks District meeting
May 8, 2017, 4:30 PM
6500 Building
6500 Congress Avenue
Boca Raton, FL (map)