The Dynamics of the River Walk Project
by Hank Springer
The Riverwalk Project has been in the works for 18 years.
Tonight, 6 11 13 there was another CRA meeting about the lack of progress
in negotiations with the Grand Master Developer.
Let me not proceed with my essay, without thanking the city council and the city manager for moving the meeting from the upstairs meeting room where the meeting would not have been televised, to the chambers where I watched the proceedings on POG TV.
It is interesting that Buddy LaCour was not at this meeting.
The meeting was called for the city manager to explain his talks with Buddy LaCour about proceeding in land swaps between the city and the investors of land already purchased in anticipation of a river walk park being built.
If you just want to read the facts about where we all are on the Riverwalk Project, do not spend your time reading my essay. I will try to report the facts as best as I understand them in this essay, but I am more concerned with, as Ted Noftall asked tonight, “Why are we will still going with this Riverwalk Project? Who keeps breathing life into it”?
Let me jump to my bottom line. I may very well be wrong, and doing a dis service to Mayor Green, but if he wants to offer his version of his role in the Riverwalk Project, he is welcomed to do it, and I will give him as many web pages he needs to do so, on this web site. I think Mayor Green is breathing life into this mis- adventure and I will tell you why.
Let me first point out, that if I were on a civilian review board, I think it would be fair to say that I come to a civilian review board with baggage, since I had been a career police man. Mayor Green comes to the Riverwalk Project with a lot of baggage. He has recused himself from voting on Riverwalk proposals, because he admits to conflict of interests that he has with Buddy LaCour.
I do not know if the Mayor has worked business wise with Buddy LaCour in the past, or is now so doing, but let us not forget that the Mayor has long had a construction business in this area, and his son also has a construction business in this area.
The Mayor has stated that he has known Buddy LaCour for many years, and I think he at least meant as a friend, if not a business acquaintance.
Nonetheless, when it was proposed at a CRA meeting some months ago, that a city council man should serve as a negotiator with Buddy LaCour on the land swap problems, the mayor seemed to jump at volunteering. Bob Ford said that the Mayor had better think twice about being the negotiator with Buddy LaCour. I had thought the consensus was for Don Burnette to negotiate with Buddy LaCour, but Don pointed out tonight that his role as a negotiator for the city council was never ratified.
Instead, our new City Manager negotiated with Buddy Lacour. I point out that Mayor Green with sunshine laws, would not be able to confer with Don Burnette concerning Burnette’s planned or resulting negotiations with Buddy La Cour, but under sunshine laws, the Mayor can and I would guess has conferred with the new city manager about the city manager’s negotiations with Buddy LaCour.
And I suspect that the Mayor has been talking frequently with Buddy LaCour. It is no secret that I think the Mayor works best behind the scene, and not in public.
I remember some years back, the Mayor had said that at the end of his term he would not seek reelection as mayor, but then for some reason unknown to me he sought reelection and was opposed by someone I had never heard of. The mayor won, and I suspected that something or someone urged the Mayor to stay in the city council until the stalemate between the city and Buddy LaCour was overcome. Could Buddy have asked the Mayor to stay around and steer things Buddy’s way? So there you have it. My speculation and suspicion. This is not fact, I know, but I had thought the Mayor wanted to tend to his olive garden and retire. But he did not. Use the comment section below and tell me where and how I am wrong. I will have to accept your facts, probably.
There are millions of dollars at stake in this Riverwalk project. As it was pointed out tonight at the CRA meeting, if the Riverwalk project does not proceed, there can be no hope of revitalizing the Ridgewood corridor area. And you know how suspicious I am, so here it comes. Could it be possible that Buddy LaCour would like the city to walk away from the riverwalk project, and then Buddy Lacour and his investors can buy up all the impoverished land on Ridgewood Ave., and build a new Miami in Port Orange, with 17 story condos? Hank, how unfair, and evilly suspicious you are. You are probably correct. But as long as you went this far with my conspiracy theory, go a little further; at least I think you will find it interesting, if not worthwhile.
As I understand it, the city manager negotiated with Buddy and was offered the following by Buddy, with some details which I will not go into now. But Basically, Buddy offered Mr. Kisela for the city to have its land for its park, everything south of Herbert St. (I am opened to corrections on the proposal.)
Buddy would own all the land north of Herbert St., including the old trailer park. Mr. Kisela countered that they should find some way to let the city keep the old trailer park. Buddy said “no”. Kisela presented the offer to the city council tonight, 6 11 13. Also found out from the negotiations with La Cour, that La Cour would not let the city in the land it might acquire south of Herbert St., to close Halifax Drive.
So, Lt. Colombo here, thought, “Geez this guy La Cour plays hard ball, and wants 2/3 thirds of the best land available in this park area. Also I heard tonight, that his original plans of building some condos have returned in Buddy’s thinking.
Anyway, I think all of the city council objected to La Cour having the old trailer park, and were not happy with being mandated by Buddy to keep Halifax Ave, opened for the benefit of LaCour’s investments in city owned park property
The mayor threw me off, and I was stunned to hear the mayor say that if the city could not have the old trailer park, then the council might as well go home, because there was no sense in having a city park.
I was amazed by the mayor proposing to call the whole thing off. And so the city council then started to explore the possibilities of the city having the south end of the rivewalk area, the center part owned by Buddy and his investors, and if they could get Buddy to agree, for the city to have the north end.
I was getting concerned. A split up park, with the grand center owned by private investors. I don’t like that. To get from one park to the other park, you would have to walk past Buddy’s restaurant and river boat, which I will never patronize? Kisela pointed out again, that Buddy had said “no” to letting the city have the old trailer park, the north part of this riverwalk area.
And then, I knew what was afoot, when the Mayor said let’s invite Buddy to appear before the city council, and in front of the public ask Buddy to let the city have the old trailer park. If we have the southern end of the area, and the north of the area, although Buddy would have the center, the city could still manage a park for the people, albeit divided. Someone pointed out parking problems.
And wise old Lt.Columbo, suspicious, speculating Hank thought, so this is the scheme.
The scenario goes like this, at least in my demented mind:
Buddy from the first figured that he could live with holding the prime point area, and center part of the riverwalk area, but he would let the city think that he was opposed to that kind of land swap. Then the mayor, (who might be a bit concerned about his legendary history in this riverwalk possible failure) would propose, after the mayor already saying no deal unless the city gets the old trailer park, invite Buddy, (whom the mayor has stated should have been a shadow partner in this whole affair – would this be the Mayor’s favorite modem of operation?) to appear publicly and the mayor as a hero would put the question to Buddy. “Buddy if the city cannot have the old trailer park land, we might as well all go home” . Buddy to the Mayor. “Mayor Green, I do not think it is fair for all I have done for the city, but for the benefit of the taxpayer and the citizens of Port Orange, I will go the extra mile, and yes, you can have the north side of the area and you can have the south side of the area, but you have to keep Halifax Ave open for my investments.” (What is wrong with LaCour’s customers driving to his central part of the area by way of Herbert St.?)
Anyone want comment and tell me I am nuts. Feel free to do so, and use the handy comment sections which follow.
I could be wrong. I usually don’t have all the facts. — Hank