BUDDY LACOUR THREATENS TO ABANDON RIVERWALK

What happened in the CRA meeting of 7 22 14 reminds me of two tactical approaches I have witnessed in the past.
  1. In 2002 Joan and I went searching to buy a van.  We went to a Chevy dealer in New Smyrna Beach and I told the salesman what I was looking for. I saw three models on the lot which I was interested in and asked him what was the best price he could give me for each one of them.  He told me he was not going to discuss price unless I committed to buying from him. I was dumbfounded and walked out of that dealership.
We bought from John Hall and I told our salesman at that dealership what I had encountered at the New Smyrna Dealership.  Our salesman told me that the guy in New Smyrna Beach was a little crazy.
Sometime later, after we bought the astro from Jon Hall, I got in the mail a letter from the salesman in New Smyrna Beach.  He wrote that he was disappointed to learn that I had bought a van from Jon Hall because Jon Hall was very poor on servicing the cars they sold to customers.
I called up my salesman in Jon Hall and asked him if he could believe the letter I had gotten. He asked me to bring that letter to him, which I did.  Sometime later the New Smyrna Beach salesman was fired.
  1.  Some years ago the city of Port Orange had protracted union negotiations with the fire union over a new contract.  Unbelievable to me, the city took a position that the city would not discuss any line item request made by the union, but that the union’s only option was to accept the “total package” or no contract signing could be reached.  That did not sound like negotiations to me.
And tonight at the CRA meeting I had déjà vu.  Buddy LaCour told the CRA members that if the CRA members did not vote yes on a city policy to share tax dollars with Buddy, Buddy would abandon the Riverwalk Project and go on his own.
Buddy also said that he is tired of working on the Riverwalk Park project in a “hostile environment” and mentioned council person Bob Ford.
Ford and Bastian voted no on agreeing to a city policy of giving LaCour tax money, because primarily, the city council did not have the details about what exactly was going to be built by LaCour and the specific list of expenses for those construction costs.  Kennedy, Burnette and the Mayor voted yes.
I think it was the attorney for the city who said that council members should look at this issue from a different  angle.  I say maybe there are too many unknown angles to consider in the deal.
The lawyer for LaCour told the city council that if LaCour does not spend the money needed for construction incentives, then LaCour would not get the money.  Excuse me!  Can anyone believe that when promised a certain amount of money if they spend it, those purchases will not materialize?
It was explained to the city council that the details in construction costs were not yet finalized and at this time the developer did not know what they will be, but what was needed now was a policy decision that the city would cover certain construction costs with tax payers’ money.  Ford and Bastian did not want to say yes to a policy decision on this matter until they got the financial list of what the money was needed for and how much.  But Buddy LaCour came to the microphone and said that he was tired of all this hostile environment and Bob Ford,  and if the policy agreement was not passed tonight he was walking away from the deal.
Oh my heart beat faster.  Yes, walk away and go it alone.  Who wants a park with three seventeen story condos right in the middle, and the city park split up, a section in the north and a section in the south.
And the burden on tax payers to maintain the park land as pretty as possible for the benefit of the tenants living in the condos?
Tomorrow, 7 23 14 I will be preparing some selected video portions of this meeting and will post them on my web site.
Hank springer
Posted on www.popdradiolog.com at 9:44:04 PM  July 22, 2014



 

12 thoughts on “BUDDY LACOUR THREATENS TO ABANDON RIVERWALK

  • July 23, 2014 at 11:32 am
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    I applaud the 3 yes votes to move this project forward. The connection of the Riverwalk seamlessly from Dunlawton Ave to the northern city limits is invaluable. The park the city is building is great, but will only continue to drain the cities general fund year after year. The idea that is put out their that the park investment is enough doesn’t make sense to me. The condo project will only create new tax dollars that we don’t have access to today. Like we’ve discussed before, doing nothing is more costly to the tax payers, some folks just don’t know that yet. We already have borrowed over $900,000 from the general fund, aka our pockets. New tax base must be built to stop that bleeding. Some public comments last night continued to show its not really about TIF, but about the condos and their height. Everyone is allowed to have their opinion on that issue. Mine is, he owns the property and it’s zoned for it so he has the right to build them. If I don’t want them, I need to buy the property from him.
    On the cost estimates for the items that he could be reimbursed for, it’s always interesting to watch how people make decisions when other people’s money is at risk. I believe all of us would take Buddys position if we were in his shoes. The redevelopment plan clearly lays out the types of improvements he can be reimbursed for. The cap is set at 50% of TIF revenue after debt service is paid, and only up to $5m. What do we care if a stop light costs $10,000 or $50,000. The city clearly understands the dollar comitement (up to $5m) and where the money is to be paid out of (new tax revenue created only from his project). Also, the city just made a deal that likely will eliminate the general fund from having to loan anymore money to the CRA once the condos get built. A great savings for the residents. Buddy’s attorney may have said it best “Paralyses by Analysis”
    On Buddy’s position of “it’s a yes tonight or we abandon all plans and it sits their dormant”. At some point he had to put his foot down. If the council scrutinized all development projects this way, the city would have zero development activity. I applauded him for his honesty and also his willingness to stick around for over 15 years on this project when no one else has stepped up to invest any significat money in Riverwalk.

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    • July 23, 2014 at 4:52 pm
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      Mr. Onlooker you have some points that have merit.
      In regards to no one else coming to risk their investments in the Riverwalk I think we should remember that no one else investing right now would have the leverage which LaCour has, understanding his inside connections within city hall and his voice as the master developer.
      The city’s approval to let LaCour build three 17 story condos is a fact, but is resented by many and will always be resented by many. Those who resent maintaining a city park for future tenants of the condos have a right to resist any request for incentive tax dollars to build those condos.
      LaCour does have a lot of money invested as does the city, but LaCour’s investments should not be backed by citizens’ tax dollars.
      When the first talk of building structures began, the cra and most citizens I think, were against building structures that would be more than 5 stories tall. How the cra and city council were convinced that it was necessary to allow Lacour to build three condos to the rear of the park I do not know. Because of the economy LaCour decided to abandon his idea at that time to build condos. But after Lacour and allies gobbled up prime river land LaCour returned to his idea of building condos, but this time right on the river front. So you see, citizens have good reason to resent the condos and they will always be thorns in many peoples’ memory.
      There are a lot of ifs and angles concerning what LaCour and his allies might do with the property they own.. Suppose they sell the properties to tatoo parlors despite our mayor’s disapproval of tattoos? Suppose he once again decides as he has already done before in this project, that because of the market, condos will not sell? I don’t think I would be too disappointed if that were to happen, but I am uneasy about financially backing up his investments when we do not really know what he will ultimately do with that land.
      Remember, that Lacour purchased on behalf of the city the Lohmann funeral home, at an inflated price as the market was at the time, because as Lacour said to the cra board, Lohmann had intentions to expand their business (in land destined to become a city park? can you believe that?), and so it was good for the city to buy that land and property before it became more expensive. As one of my reader commentators wrote, : this is a good angle to remember. when I sell my home I will ask for more money than it is worth, because some day I intend to make improvements on the home.
      There are arguments that condos would revitalize that area and more businesses will come to the area, increasing revenue for the city. Perhaps that will happen. But in my opinion the complete Port Orange Ridgewood Corrider can not be revitalized without building more condos. And in such instances of course the city will not be backing investments for building condos as the city has been detoured into doing with LaCour.
      When plans for Riverwalk were first developed I and Mr. Parker in an exchange of e mail noted how excited we were to be moving on the idea of a first class city park. Then I heard about 17 story condos, and I was a little disappointed. Now I hear of 17 story condos to be built on the best part of the city park, and I am disgusted. The best part of the park should have been reserved for the public. The park will probably not be completed in my life time. If it is, I guarantee you that as a matter of principle, you will not see me in it. The idea of a Buddy Lacour Riverfront park just grates on me.
      Thank you for this exchange of ideas.

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      • July 23, 2014 at 5:51 pm
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        Henry,
        I guess that’s were this conversation ends up, one opinion versus another. I don’t resent 17 story condos but you do. I don’t consider that the maintenance of the park will be done by the city for the benefit of the condo tenants only, you do. The park will be open to everyone, and I know I will use it. The idea that the entire area was planned to be a massive riverfront park is great in concept, but falters when the reality of all that property staying off the tax rolls and the cost to build and maintain the park is realized. We’d all like a “Central Park” concept, we just can’t afford it.
        Buddy’s assumed leverage wasn’t created from any city hall connections. He was the only developer back 15 years ago that stuck his neck out and began writing checks for property. Everybody else went West, he didn’t, he methodically fronted money on the old side of town and took on expenses to position himself to build a project. We should be helping him get this project out of the ground and as a resident of Port Orange, I am willing to pay into that on the level the council has committed to.

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        • July 23, 2014 at 6:01 pm
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          OK, I appreciate your thoughts and I give the last word, for now. To be continued I suspect.

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        • July 23, 2014 at 6:30 pm
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          I am fine with Mr LaCour and do hope the area is “properly” developed.
          In my opinion, high rise condos does not constitute proper development of this property. I feel that after so many years spent pondering, that their backs are against the wall at this point in time.
          Boat docks, restaurants, public park, family days, fireworks – an area generally suited to all is what I anticipated. NOT private high rise condos.

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  • July 23, 2014 at 8:43 pm
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    Building a project of that magnitude would take some city participation. It is a major project for the city equal to the Pavillion project on Williamson. You have to weigh the benefits to the residents and the community. For example: it will potentially stop the bleeding from the general fund at some point, it will create lots of jobs for the community and the construction trades, and will eventually add to the city tax base easing the tax burden for all residents in the future. Do the positives outweigh the negatives, I think they do in the long run. I actually think Buddy is being realistic with his cost analysis. There is no TIF if there is no construction. As Mr. Onlooker said, if you own the dirt with the zoning in place, you get to develop. I think it is a fair proposal.
    There have been many projects in the city that passed on a 3-2 vote. It was a shame that the entire CRA was not present last night but I still think it would have passed. I hope this is the catalyst to get it going. Yes, Ford has been against this from the beginning so no one should be surprised about his vote. That is his right as an elected councilman. There will probably be other hurdles for the developers in the future. Looking forward to seeing something going on down there.
    Bob Pohlmann

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    • July 23, 2014 at 10:31 pm
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      Bob the pavilion did not get any city tax payers’ money, correct? Consenting to a policy which gives more tax money to Buddy LaCour is not the first concession or backing down to Buddy LaCour which the cra and the city council has participated in. Abandoning the cra’s principle of no structures over 5 stories high might have been the first concession. Allowing Buddy to split up the city owned land into a north and south section of the park may have been the second concession. Now taking on a policy to give him tax money in the future I guess is the third concession to Buddy. I hope there are no more, but here I go again, I suspect that more concessions will be asked for from Buddy. I do not think Condos are selling well. Perhaps the market will change.
      Since Buddy does not get the 5 million dollars now, and to proceed with his construction projects he needs to put up his and his allies own money, why did he need the city to agree to a policy this week to promise him tax money some time in the future? What made it so urgent for Lacour to get that city promise this week, since no money exchanges hands for some time to come?

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  • July 23, 2014 at 9:51 pm
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    If I am not mistaken this project has one more hurdle. The vote was not made by Council but by the CRA minus 2 members that were absent. The vote must now be placed on the agenda and Voted on by City Council at a regular Council Meeting. Perhaps if the commissioners get enough grief from the people they actually represent they could have a change of heart. They were meeting as the CRA and now must change their hats and hopefully vote on behalf of the OPINION of the citizens that reside in their respective districts. I believe a yes vote could ruin a commissioners political career going forward. Dennis is leaving and the Mayor will be following. That’s 2 that can afford a yes. Mr. Burnette seems too anxious and in a hurry and I’m not sure why. A yes could be the bitter end of his political career going forward. We will have to wait and see what shakes out.

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  • July 26, 2014 at 9:46 am
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    How did Mayor Green go from abstaining all along to being the lead dog in the pack charging forward for Riverwalk and the developer? This is perplexing and convoluted. Something is definitely wrong here. Hank if you catch this please add it to your list of questions. Mr. Green abstained for years due to past working relationships and a long time personal relationship with the developer. There are many City meeting minutes available that support this. Why the sudden change of heart. This would have made a huge difference at the last CRA meeting and the developer would have walked as he threatened. Problem solved. Thanks Hank.
    https://www.port-orange.org/documents/meetings/special/2012-09-11/minutes.htm

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    • July 26, 2014 at 11:34 pm
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      Yes incoming 2, I think I will be touching on that aspect. You probably know that there was a meeting where the attorney for the city produced a document from the State Attorney General I think, which answered the questions put to him by the city attorney on behalf of the mayor, said questions described Green’s relationship and his son’s relationship with Buddy Lacour, and advice was sought from the Attorney General as to whether Green could take part in CRA votes on the Riverwalk project. The attorney general that based on the information provided to him, that Green could take part in Riverwalk votes, and thus he returned to voting. As to why Green sought to reestablish his right to vote on Lacour’s projects would probably be answered by Green that he was concerned to protect the investors’ (tax payers) money in this CRA deal.
      Who could argue with that?

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  • July 27, 2014 at 9:47 am
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    Thanks Hank. I certainly was not aware of all of that thus my confusion. I look forward to the results of your Q&A session with the Mayor. Perhaps a little more transparency could actually do him some good in the eyes of us citizens. Right now his persona is that of a secretive angry gentleman not caring about citizens and only his own interests. It can only improve his image as it can’t possibly be all bad. Thanks again.

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  • July 27, 2014 at 1:28 pm
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    It would be nice if a large contingent of citizens, say two hundred or so could be organized to make up signs and picket outside city hall during future council meetings to demand a well advertised citizens referendum vote on the Lacour/Riverwalk TIFF subsidization. This could be televised on the news with Lori Brown interviewing various people. If anyone is in the position to organize something like this I think it would have a dramatic impact.

    Reply

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