More Wheeling & Dealing Land Swaps at Riverwalk

From: Dianne Gardne
Sent: Thursday, May 29, 2014 9:32 AM ….

Sales & Leasing (Already?)

Dear Mayor, Council, Mr. Talluto, Dr. Blahnik, and Susan Lovallo:
This is a follow up to my comments before Council on May 27th, 2014 about the land swap being promoted by LaCour and Partners in the Riverwalk development whereby the city forfeits the funeral home property square footage for 3 patches of “equivalent” square footage in LaCour’s Riverwalk commercial area to used as “parks” for the public.  This follow up is also my plea for some real discussion among council members about what is really going down here with this proposed land swap.  Equivalent to me means real value for real value.  I do not see that equivalency here at all.  “Square footage for square footage.” Not exactly in this case.
Apart from my understanding that Mr. LaCour has already had a financial windfall at the taxpayer’s expense of $237,448 when he sold the Cardwell Funeral Home back to us for $812,448 in November 2009 after purchasing it for $575K in December 2008, my concern is that the taxpayer is again getting the short end of the stick on this land swap deal. Just from a straight up business deal perspective, 3 patches of non contiguous land are far less usable that one piece of contiguous land. This is not a deal I would ever make or I think Mr. LaCour would make. And I question how useful these 3 patches of land are to our taxpayers as “park land”. Toward that end I would respectfully ask that council and our CRA board members go to the site, get some kind of feel for the positioning of these patches of land, maybe ask a rep from Mr. LaCour’s development team to show council and CRA board members exactly where these will be and then ask themselves honestly what real value the park-going public will get from them in terms of use.  To my mind, based on my visit there with my husband, these patches are small and poorly positioned in terms of any kind of view of the water front for the two on the ends. Lift station on one end, mangroves, and moored boats on both ends. The pink patch in the middle will be stuck in the retail area with no view at all that I can see.   And we already own part of these 3 patches because of the right of way.  Makes the deal even worse from our perspective. Trading to get back something we already partially own. And there is no parking for the public for these parks.  To get to one of these 3 park patches you will have to park at either end on public land and then walk. For a while. With kids if you have kids. It will be a hike.
As an avid user of our parks, I walk the Causeway Park, bridge and the Riverwalk area every morning. I would like to hear some input from our Parks and Recreation Department Manager Susan Lovallo and discussion by our Parks and Recreation Board who have years of expertise and experience in park land use and hear their thoughts on how these patches of land will really be used by the park-going public.  I, for one, do not find these pink patches, hard to call them “parks”, anything that I would utilize.  I also think unspoken in all of this is what we all really already know:  the public will not use in any substantive manner these 3 patches of land because they are small, not contiguous and have no real view of the river and essentially will be in the front yards of people who own those condos. Our “park” patches for all intents and purposes will be privatized in a de factor manner.
Further, the fact that the city will be maintaining 2 giant parcels of very nicely landscaped treed parks in perpetuity at both ends of this development adds incalculable value to LaCour and Partners investment.  Nothing can ever go in next to these condos to block their views.  I was trying to think of any other condo development locally that would have that kind of advantage from a developers standpoint. Nothing came to mind.  An incredible deal for anyone buying a condo there.  Two free giant parks at either end of your property. Maintained by the city in perpetuity. Heck of a feature and benefit as a perspective selling point in my book.  That would be in my condo brochure.  Riverfront condos bordered by huge pieces of public lands on either end of the development.   Makes Buddy’s request for a 50-50 split onTIF dollars even more egregious.  I admire LaCour and Partners for their chutzpah.
A related concern I have too: Buddy and Company are developing a 286 unit condo project up in Ormond on the old site of the Memorial Hospital.  Ric Goss from Ormond Beach told me yesterday there are no Ormond Beach taxpayer dollars involved in that project.  Buddy is also developing a Wal Mart project at the corner of Madeline and Clyde Morris, here in Port Orange. Then of course he is developing our Riverwalk project, roughly estimated to be at $90 to $100 million. My question is this: how many project balls can Buddy keep in the air at once?  How deep a pocket is the master developer? What happens if the economy tanks again? What happens if any of the partners dies or becomes incapacitated?  Who are the other partners in the Riverwalk LLC anyway and what are their financial bona fides?  What if the developer defaults for any reason? What other developments of this scale has Buddy and company brought to fruition? Will the city still be whole in its partnership with Buddy should any of those scenarios occur?
If these questions can be answered by our attorney or by council, may I get that back in writing? Our mayor and council have a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayer.  I am asking that they do their due diligence on our behalf as we move forward on this project.
Dianne Templeton Gardner
618 Ruth Street
Port Orange, Florida 32127
PS: As an afterthought, do these 3 park patches contribute to any requirement Buddy may have for “open spaces” within his  development? Killing two birds with one stone.

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