Ocean Breeze: Let’s Cut Out the Middleman

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PUBLISHER’S COMMENT:

There is a clear divide in public sentiment concerning the Ocean Breeze Golf Course acquisition.   Most interests groups support ‘Keeping Golf In Boca’.  Most interests groups support Ocean Breeze’s restoration to a world class ‘public’ golf experience.  Where the divide occurs in in the acquisition process.  Some interest groups favor the Beach and Park District’s acquisition for the asking price of $24 million dollars;  others argue that the property does not support an acquisition at that price.  Over the last few week’s BocaWatch has published these opposing points of view.  Below is the latest position paper received representing the opinion(s) of its author and not necessarily the opinion of BocaWatch or its management.

Al Zucaro, Publisher

It’s time for City Council to take over the acquisition of the Ocean Breeze golf course. The Beach & Parks District has proved itself woefully inadequate to the task.

The Parks District has agreed to pay $24 million for the derelict, abandoned Ocean Breeze golf course — a property worth no more than $6 million. The Parks District needs the City to issue bonds to pay for the purchase — and the transaction therefore cannot proceed without City Council’s approval.

Some people have suggested that the City Council should rubber-stamp the Park District’s proposal because the Parks District is agreeing to reimburse the City for the required payments on the bonds.

The fact that the money to repay the bonds would come from the Parks District (as opposed to the City) is a distinction without a difference. Every single taxpayer of the City pays taxes to the Parks District.

In other words, whether the money to repay the bonds comes from the City or from the Parks District, the taxpayers of Boca Raton would ultimately be footing the bill.

City Council has a duty to protect the citizens of Boca Raton.

Not only should the City take over the negotiations, but it should acquire the property for itself.

Let’s review . . .

The City — and not the Parks District — owns the title to the Western golf course. So putting the Ocean Breeze property on the City’s books is not a foreign concept.

The Ocean Breeze golf course — which, in effect, would be a better-located replacement for the Western golf course — is fully contained with the City limits.

The Parks District can’t pay for the property itself — it needs the City to float bonds to fund its purchase of Ocean Breeze. If the City buys the property, the purchase transaction is simplified.

The Parks District has done a TERRIBLE job of protecting the taxpayers of Boca Raton. It has agreed to pay Lennar $24 million for a property appraised at under $6 million, dismissing out-of-hand using eminent domain to acquire the property at fair market value.

The Parks District has lost the confidence of the taxpayers. Maybe not the residents of Boca Teeca who stand to benefit greatly from the Ocean Breeze bail out — but the rest of the taxpayers who are being asked to foot a bill for the Parks District’s spectacularly bad negotiating performance.

The total cost for Ocean Breeze would not be just the land cost, but also additional millions for renovation and improvements. The Parks District’s own numbers (which it doesn’t advertise) put the renovation and improvement cost in the neighborhood of $11 to $21 million — more if it decides to associate Ocean Breeze with a “name” golf professional.

What we recommend

  1. The City should take over the purchase negotiations for Ocean Breeze.
  2. If necessary, the City should use an eminent domain proceeding to obtain a fair price, one that reflects the fair market value of the Ocean Breeze property.
  3. The City should be the owner of the Ocean Breeze property, not the Beach & Parks District.

Council needs to protect us

The Mayor and City Council pride themselves on how well they run the City’s finances. Taxes are relatively low and services are excellent.

We are asking City Council to recognize that it can’t turn a blind eye to the Parks District’s incompetence. The overpayment of $15 to $20 million — an undeserved and unearned windfall to a major developer — which the Parks District is proposing to pay would be an inexcusable waste of taxpayer money.

City Council needs to protect us.

Yes, we can have a world class municipal golf course in the City of Boca Raton — but we shouldn’t overpay to get it. And the golf course should be owned by the City. Let’s cut out the middleman.

Judy
Judith Teller Kaye
Boca Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility

Contact your public officials

The names and email addresses of the Mayor and City Councilmembers are below, as are the names and email addresses of the Parks District’s Commissoners. 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

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.

Executed Purchase & Sale Agreement Ocean Breeze

18 COMMENTS

  1. I’m not sure if it really makes a difference whether the City or the Parks District purchases the property, and I believe, as most due, that acquisition and renovation of the property would be an important step in enhancing our City. However, I cannot understand why we are purchasing and paying a handsome sum to Lennar? Maybe I am missing something, but from what I have read, the property is owned by the bank (Wells Fargo I believe) and Lennar has contracted with the bank to purchase the property, contingent upon a change to residential zoning and the approval of the Boca Teeca residents to overcome the restrictive covenant that the property must be used as a golf course. Those contingencies have apparently not been met. Why should Lennar profit? Wouldn’t the logical, and less costly path be to negotiate with the owner, i.e. the bank (assuming its contract with Lennar is a nullity)? We should remember that the bank, as owner, is under the same requirement as any owner subject to the restrictive covenant, that is to operate the property as a golf course or sell to a golf course operator. It seems that would be a better alternative than eminent domain proceedings, which would probably take years..

  2. Currently, EL REDUS, LLC owns the Golf Course Property, not Lennar. Lennar has a contract to purchase the property and convert it to residential development with no golf course.. What is the purchase price Lennar is paying? Furthermore, the contract has to be contingent upon obtaining the approval of a majority of the Boca Teeca homeowners, which is highly unlikely as well as approval by the City. Why should Lennar be able to flip the purchase to the City for millions? Let the City deal directly with EL REDUS and pay fair market value or obtain the property by eminent domain. The $19 million saved could be used to renovate the golf course into a top class facility.

  3. These golf course deals are a no-brainer for the taxpayers of our city as the City will sell their golf course located outside of the city for $73+ million and the Park District will pay $24 million + $12 million for refurbishment, so the city taxpayers are going to NET at least $37 million and bring a world class golf course into our city. The author of this article lives in the private Royal Palm Yacht & Country Club so apparently she does care about the benefits of a Public championship level golf course within our city since she already has her own private golf club.

    Lennar got to Wells Fargo first after the foreclosure and they can use their billions of dollars to buy the land and sit on it for years which would result in the city receiving complaints from the thousands of residents in Boca Teeca to complain about missing out on this deal and the deteriorating condition of the property. This is not a political hot potato that the city leaders want to haunt them for the next several years if they miss out on this unique opportunity. Send support emails to all of the elected officials noted by this author to get this deal done and improve our community for the benefit of ALL residents.

    • Nowhere does Ms. Gold explain why the Beach & Parks District should pay $24 million for the Ocean Breeze golf course — $18 million more than the property is worth — when the Beach & Parks District (or the City) could use eminent domain to acquire the property for fair market value (under $6 million).

      Eminent domain is designed for situations like this one — where a property owner refuses to sell property that a government entity wants for a public use or, like Lennar, demands an exorbitant price. Even a serious threat of eminent domain is likely to bring Lennar to the negotiating table (if not cause it to walk away from its option on the property). If the threat of eminent domain is not enough, the City can start a proceeding which will inevitably result in the City acquiring the property, whether by settlement or judgment, for many millions less than $24 million.

      Some questions for Ms. Gold:

      1. Would you pay $240 for an item that Costco sells for $60?

      2. And, even if you would, do you think that a public official should spend $240 of taxpayer money when the exact same item could easily be acquired for $60?

      3. What is your rationale for suggesting that the Parks District should spend $24 million on property it could easily acquire for many millions less?

      As I have repeatedly said, I am in favor of the acquisition of Ocean Breeze and its conversion into a world-class municipal golf course. But I do oppose unnecessarily gifting $18 million to a major developer.

      And by the way, while I live in the Royal Palm community, I am not a member of the Royal Palm golf club, which is a completely separate entity.

      • Ms Kaye – The seller has done the city taxpayers a favor by making it easier for the city to sell the city golf course for $73+ million and still keep this important recreational amenity within our city. Both Ocean Strand and Sugar Sand park were acquired AFTER their owners obtained development approvals, so if Lennar followed the normal developer process, then taxpayers would not be netting over $35 million in these transactions.

        You are not well informed on the history of the Ocean Breeze property since the Boca Teeca residents previously sold their deed restriction to MCZ for less than $500k and that rezoning sailed through city council approval like a knife through hot butter. MCZ did not have the financial resources to holdout until the economy improved and I suspect they are very unhappy that they lost out on the opportunity to make millions on this rezoning & development approval.

        Lennar has indicated that they will not sell for anything less than $24 million and neither the city or park district wants to risk large attorney fees for an uncertain outcome in eminent domain. If the City or Park District were better at planning, then they could’ve bought this property during the 5 years it was in foreclosure, but they were beat at this game by the local real estate professionals who brought this opportunity to Lennar. It is not worth the risk of losing this opportunity to acquire the property now and providing an easy path for the city to sell their golf course which results in a Win-Win for taxpayers and golfers in our city.

        • Ms. Gold, your mental gymnastics attempting to justify an $18 million windfall for Lennar are impressive. However, your entire argument is based on demonstrably false assertions.

          First, Lennar in no respect is responsible for the City being able to sell the Western golf course for $73 million. That honor goes to GL Homes who bid the $73 million. (Lennar’s original bid was millions less.)

          Second, Lennar has already failed in an attempt to obtain development rights on the Ocean Breeze property. Neither the residents nor the City show any interest in reversing their decisions. As a result, the only use that Lennar can make of the property is as a golf course, a use Lennar has shown no interest in. Lennar gambled on being able to obtain development rights—and lost.

          Third, there is no possibility of the City losing the opportunity to acquire the property. Whenever it wants, the City can take the property by eminent domain, thereby acquiring Ocean Breeze for fair market value which no one but Lennar could possibly assert is anywhere near as high as $24 million.

          Finally, I note that you did not answer the three questions I posed in my reply to your original post..

  4. From what I’ve heard the Weston Golf Course is to be sold and Redevelopment to residential Housing it only seems logical to me that to replace this detrimental action to our community which has the possibility of disenfranchising our youth who use the golf course on a daily basis not only to play but for instruction also would be to purchase the Ocean Breeze Golf Course at fair market value and develop it into a world-class Golf Course especially since it is within the city limits. Mayor Haney you’ve done a good job thus far , a city that’s not growing is dying, let’s do the right thing here!!

  5. For what it’s worth, I agree with Judith. It is completely ridiculous to pay more than this property is worth.

    It is worth noting that this property is absolutely worthless for any use other than a golf course. So its value is very limited for anybody who is not willing to operate a golf course, i.e., the current owner. Their “take it or leave it” attitude towards this negotiation is a red herring, unless they plan on operating a golf course.

    So the alternatives seem to be:
    – Pay a fair price for the property, through good faith negotiations, or
    – Pay a fair price for the property, through eminent domain
    In either case, get B&P out of the picture – they have proven their lack of ability to negotiate for our benefit, and their history of cooperation with the City is spotty at best.

    Finally, I’d like to see us decouple the Ocean Breeze discussion from the potential sale of our municipal golf course. Both of these represent open green space, and there is very little of such space to be had. We should acquire Ocean Breeze at a fair price and we should continue to own ‘the muni”. Our children will be glad we did……..

    • This is the type of thinking that would have prevented the acquisition of our beachfront park property. Lennar ahs clearly stated that this is the price they are willing to sell and otherwise they will sit on it and it will be a huge eyesore for the city. If the city were adapt at all in their planning, then they would’ve approached Wells Fargo before Lennar signed a contract with the bank. This lost opportunity will certainly be more costly but the taxpayers win big if both transactions are completed – see above comments.

      • With respect, Tina, I disagree. Buying anything for more than it is worth is fiscally irresponsible. Several points:
        – Not sure why our beach acquisitions are in this discussion, but you would have to show how we paid more for our beach property than it was worth
        – Let Lennar sit on it if they want to! While they do, it remains an open space for the pleasure of Boca Teeca and is subject to all of our rules regarding Untended Vegetation, etc. There’s no way they will operate a golf course, so wait ’em out! After they realize that this property is nothing but an expense, they will start listening to reasonable offers.
        – Eminent domain works in this case. We pay a fair price and everyone gets what they want, except for Lennar. Too bad for them if they made a bad investment.
        – I would be happy to chair or participate in a committee chartered with the negotiation for this property. I’m sure we could acquire it for a lot less than $24M. And I’ll bet our City Council would love to have this political monkey off their back….

        Finally, I looked up your name in the Palm Beach County tax rolls. I did not see you listed. Are you a property owner or taxpayer in the City of Boca Raton?

    • Good points Joe. I think the residents need two questions answered before any decisions are made to spend our money:

      1. what is the audited pro forma long term financial ROI of each of the feasible golf course acquisition scenarios? I don’t think local government should be in the business of profit making, but the residents need to know what might happen to their money under each scenario. It is naïve to base an acquisition decision on first costs only.

      2. what is the definition of “championship” or “world class” golf? If that is what the residents will pay for, we need to know what the results will be. For example Pebble Beach, Bethpage Black and Pinehurst No. 2 are championship public golf courses and have held championship golf tournaments. Is that what we’re talking about when we say that the Ocean Breeze investment will bring championship golf to Boca? Perhaps the PGA should confirm that the Ocean Breeze plans are such that major championship golf tournaments can be held on the course. Those plans can be factored into the financial analyses described in 1. above before an investment decision is made.

      • Palm Beach county has provided the model for a rehabilitated Ocean Breeze via their very profitable Osprey Point golf course in west Boca Raton that earned almost $2 million last year and attracts residents and tourists to the 27-hole championship layout. The county paid $14 million for the development of Osprey Point and this required extensive movement of dirt & infrastructure. Adding infrastructure will not be required at the Ocean Breeze course since they already have these costly initial construction projects completed and they only need new grass & sand to bring the quality to the level promised by the Beach & Park District. For those who are not golfers, please drive to the western end of Glades Rd. and see the Osprey Point golf course for an illustration of the minimal facilities (cart barn & small golf shop) they have built to make a very beautiful and profitable golf course.

  6. Thank you to the Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District for their unanimous approval for the purchase of the former Ocean Breeze golf course property. These commissioners have discussed this opportunity for over a year and the resulting negotiation with the seller for the $24 million purchase price will result in a great recreational facility for all residents and visitors to the city.

    The normal process by developers who acquire property that may be sold to the city would’ve resulted in the rezoning and buying-off residents with their deed restriction and then offering to sell the property to the city or Park District for the full market value which would clearly be in excess of $73 million now being negotiated for the smaller city golf course property located in less desirable western Boca Raton. The net financial benefit to the city taxpayers from the purchase of Ocean Breeze and selling of the current municipal course is estimated to be at least $37 million ($73 million – $24 + $12 refurbishment = $37 million net).

    This is a huge windfall to the city that is expected to provide significant economic benefits while providing improved recreational amenities to our residents. These financial benefits do not include the expected economic benefits of higher property taxes plus the increased economic activity that will benefit businesses located within the city which could easily be estimated at up to $5 million annually. Golf is one of the largest economic drivers of the Florida tourist economy so bringing a top-quality public golf course will allow all residents to benefit from this resource.

    The city is required to provide funding for the project and it is recommended that the city utilize their plentiful reserves to fund this project in a similar manner they have done in past Beach & Park District property acquisitions. Accordingly, please show your support for bringing public golf back to our city by calling or emailing the city council at the below listed contacts:

    City Council offices – 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

    Thank you for your support of bringing PUBLIC championship level golf back to our city for the benefit of all residents.

    Respectfully,

    Robert DuKate

    Boca Raton Resident Since 1981

  7. I am writing to regarding the Purchase of the Ocean Breeze by the City. Needless to say there are different opinions–as there are always in cases such as this.

    Please won’t you keep in mind what a unique and profitable opportunity the purchase will be. It’s a once in a life time occurrence. As I’ve mentioned in person – several times – this occasion will never present itself again….. It’s now or never.
    Please consider what the alternative will bring instead—more traffic for one thing–and as I’ve also said before–does Boca need more Condominiums – especially in the Boca Teeca area?

    We really have the best option that could ever present itself again? I don’t think so. NEVER AGAIN!
    God guide you and the council members to do what’s best., NAMELY- THE OCEAN BREEZE GOLF COURSE!.
    MARY DI SALVO LAFUENTE – HAPPY BOCA RATON RESIDENT SINCE 1970 🙂

  8. what on earth makes you people think Ocean Breeze will EVER be a world class golf course???? It is going to cost a mint to even make it playable…there are so many issues with this course it is mind boggling to even think the City or Park District would consider buying it….who cares if there is a golf course WITHIN the city limits…there are plenty of others all around us and one of the only ones that supports itself is the Muni course. I really do not understand the thinking of people who support this VERY expensive trade off. As always, the developers want the biggest piece of land to put up their ticky tack homes and apartments….more money in their pockets, less usable land for the public.

  9. I have been reading and listening to all this chatter for months and it seems that all agree to buying Ocean Breeze golf course. The object in the beginning was to purchase the property in order to save green space, which is very much needed for the city. Ocean Breeze is the largest piece of open space available to the city for now . Lets set the record straight from the beginning:
    1) The city, regardless of Ocean Breeze, was getting bids to sell the municipal golf course for many reasons:
    A. it was loosing over $350,000, annually to tax payers even after putting $600,000 in renovations
    B. Location – it brought nothing back into the city, too far west, and all businesses out there reaped rewards.
    C. Competition – how can you compete with all the other golf courses in the same location especially the county run Osprey Point. All you will get is the overflow . The Osprey Point golf course had over 100,000 rounds of golf and netted a profit of over $1,900,000 last year and $1,500,000 the
    year before. Pretty amazing since golf is dead. The municipal golf course brought in half that amount and lost $350,000. No brainer. It had to go and is a good call by the city council.

    2) Shouldn’t the City of Boca Raton have a golf course, a world renown course, a golf course that will bring in people from all over to enjoy: resident, college students, golf youth clubs, tourists, and business, who will come here to enjoy what we have to offer, and spend dollars here in restaurants, pro-centers, hotels, etc. It all filters down into the community and at the same time break even or make money for the Beach & Park District.. We will achieve both goals at the same time – obtain open green space for generations to come and add something great to the great city of Boca Raton.

    3) Now to the price: if this land was on the open market, it would be in excess of $90 million dollars. The only reason it is only $24 million is because of the deed restriction, which lowers the price, but that is a good thing We are trying to enforce it as long as we can to keep the price as low as possible to make it more feasible for the Beach & Park District to obtain Ocean Breeze golf course. The price is strictly between the bank holding $18.5 million debt and the developer who controls it, which is completly out of our hands sadly but it is what it is. The deed restriction on the land is not enforceable able on any government agency.It still stays on the land but again is not enforceable able to the Beach & Park District, which is to their advantage. The Beach & Park District is the only one who could run a project and make it profitable. They have the resources to accomplish this project and the money to pay back the loan from the city without raising mileage or taxes.

    It seems that a majority of residents are in agreement as far as purchasing the property. The problem is the price.
    Let’s take an example – let’s say the Wildflower property: it was owned by a developer and they wanted to build a restaurant on the property. Now remember that it was sold for $7.5 million about 10 years ago and is only 2.5 acres in size, Probably in today’s market with inflation who knows how much. How much would you be willing to pay to save this piece of land to preserve it for generations to come and their enjoyment . The answer is regardless of its evaluation you would have to try to negotiate with the owner and then except what he wanted for the property and it would be much more than the original sale price of $7.5 million. In order to save it from development, could you justify it. I will leave the answer to you but i know what you would do if you wanted it bad enough and it was that important.

    The Ocean Breeze property in this market compared to the municipal and it’s located is a jewel for developers or the Beach & Park District to own. The city was offered $73 million dollars for the municipal golf course and was there ever an appraisal done on this property? The answer is NO, but the developers didn’t care because they know its value and realize the potential to make a profit on it. Appraisal is only a guideline for a reference to forming a conclusion, it has little to do with its true worth to a community and its future use. There is no money in the world that can buy back a piece of land once it is developed, it’s gone forever. We are so hung up on the price of this piece of property that we lose what it really means to the future. The developer was smarter than us to take possession of this land before we did and he is business to make money. The price is the price for Ocean Breeze..

    • Mr. Chaffee, your comments with regard to the price of the Ocean Breeze property consist of made-up facts (i.e., the property would be worth $90 million without the deed restriction) and non sequiturs.

      The actual facts: The only independent, professional appraisal of the property (by Callaway & Price) placed the value of the Ocean Breeze property at between $4.7 million and $5.7 million. Significantly, when the the property was put up for public auction in 2010, no one bid more than $4,000,100.

      There are no facts nor relevant arguments that support paying $24 million of public money for Ocean Breeze, especially since the City and the Parks District both have the right to take the property by eminent domain, thereby saving millions of taxpayer dollars.

  10. Harold, your comment is by far the best and most intelligent comment made so far. You articulated the landscape perfectly. I only pray that the city council doesn’t screw this up by delaying any decision. This is clearly a win win for the residents.

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