If you have been following the antics of our City Council on the ‘Potential Sale of Municipal Golf Course West’ over the last 12 months, you may have to come to the conclusion that the City Council must be auditioning for the role of “The Gang That Could Not Shoot Straight.”
What started out as an unsolicited offer for the purchase and sale of the municipal golf course quickly grew into a process that has been nothing short of comical but, as of last week, costly; $8 million costly to the residents and taxpayers of Boca Raton.
So how did we get to the point where a $73 million dollar offer is accepted at $65 million dollar; an $8 million dollar haircut. Well in an attempt to answer that question, a chronological look back is required….
Let’s start on Monday November 21, 2016.
On this day, Deputy Mayor George Brown presented the Council with a detailed analysis of the two (2) remaining entrants out of the original field of nine (9); to wit: GL Homes and Lennar Homes. Their offers were the result of a process that requested the ‘highest and best offer’ to be presented by a date certain. It was not the result of a more traditional and predictable process known as a RFP, Request for Proposal. Council Members all came to agreement that these two entrants were to be invited by the Mayor to keep their offers open and engage in further discussion with Staff to this transition to a final selection. Remember this was November, 2016, 11 months ago.
Well the Council’s agreement did not last long….The very next day, Tuesday, November 22 at the regular meeting of the City Council, Council Member Weinroth, reacting to a full chamber of residents, asked that the field of two (2) finalist be expanded to include a third (3) entrant; the Compson Group. Councilman Weinroth engaged the other Councilmembers, Councilwoman O’Rourke excluded as she was not elected until months later, and all reluctantly agreed to allow the expansion and a complication to the process.
Fast Forward to City Council meeting, January 23, 2017…Deputy City Manager Brown briefs the Council on the status of the negotiations; on the complication concerning Lennar’s offer which originally had a land swap element for the Ocean Breeze property; and the evolving interaction with the Beach and Park District to interact as a purchaser of the Ocean Breeze property independent of the sale of the muni golf course. No action could be taken as details comparing all the offers were missing. Mr. Brown recommended postponement pending further response for the entrants and the Beach and Park District.
Next up is the City Council meeting of Tuesday, February 28, 2017…Council Member Rodgers, who has certainly been the most proactive in wanting to move the sale forward and the Ocean Breeze deal to conclusion, asked that the proposals be brought forward at the next meeting as an action item.
Fast forward again to Council Workshop of March 27, 2017 where the then Deputy Mayor Mike Mullaugh requested that the proposed sale be brought forward for selection at the March 28th Council meeting. Here again, Council Member Rodgers encouraged moving forward….Mayor Haynie agreed to have the item set for discussion while Council Member Singer encouraged patience; an exercise that ultimately now results in a 19% loss to Boca Raton taxpayers. On March 28, 2017, the Compson Development group voiced objection to this quick process. Mr. Compson requested a postponement of any decision. This request was honored by the City Council; more delay.
Moving on to Tuesday, April 18, 2017… Councilwoman O’Rourke now taking her place on the Council the topic was again raised. Councilwoman O’Rourke asked about the status of the sale and the Manager responded that staff was awaiting direction from the Council. Ms. O’Rourke asked that the Council then provide staff with whatever direction needed to move this process forward. Ms. O’Rourke also raised the question as to what plans were in place regards the proceeds of the sale; to wit: $73 million dollars. Now, Deputy Mayor Rodgers also raised the point of timing of this sale and expressing his interest in the use of proceeds as well as the delay in the process.
Looking further, to Monday, May 22, 2017, post goal setting….the issue is again raised by Council Member O’Rourke for the timelines that were addressed at goal setting and again raising question as to the delay in completing this sale. Her concern was again voiced on August 21 at the City Council workshop. Very little further happened until this week when the City Council finally made a decision, a decision with a sale price far less than what was previously available to them and the taxpayers of Boca Raton; a direct result of these many self imposed delays.
Why did this happen…It started with the Lennar offer which, at the beginning, had the complication of a land swap for the Ocean Breeze property. The sale attracted 9 entrants quickly reduced to two. Further delay occurred when Councilman Weinroth argued for the expansion of the entrants to 3. Staff than spent time comparing the contacts. The GL Homes offer was originally set at $73 million from day one. They have not ever deviated from that. The Lennar offer with the land swap was valued in the range of 51 million and the Compson offer was originally far below the $73 million. All eventually raised their offers to meet the GL offer of $73 million. However, only GL argued that their offer was without contingencies and had a $5 million dollar non-refundable deposit included.
It was not until this past Tuesday, October 24, 2017 and after the Compson Group withdraws from the competition was the council able to move forward with a decision. As was the case as far back as November 2016, the GL Homes’ offer was so far superior to the Lennar offer that finally, finally the council made the obvious and right decision. However, due to the lengthy delay, GL Homes went back and re-examined their 73 million offer dropping it to $60 million. After discussion and some weak argument by Council Members, GL raised its offer to $65 million and drew the proverbially line in the sand.
So, the end result as of now and pending the council changing its mind again, is that at the next city council meeting, an ordinance will be brought forward to allow this deal proceed to completion. Some council members have indicated disappointment with the terms; to wit: $65 million with a $2 million dollar non-refundable deposit down from a $73 million dollar and a $5 million dollar non-refundable deposit.
After all the delays starting with the inclusion of the Compson Group, the council’s choice is to accept this lower offer or withdraw the offer to sell the property.
We shall see what their final decision is but no matter….’the gang that could not shoot straight’ is on the horns of a dilemma…Sell the property at the discounted price or not sell it at all….