Do you support the purchase of the Douglas/Hackworth property?
The preservation of land is one of the most important things we can do in the most densely populated county in the state.
Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.
So, how did we get here?
· The family approached us back in the fall of 2018, prior to Gladys’ passing.
· It’s important to know that because Gladys was still alive, and the family didn’t want us to discuss it in public, we honored their wishes.
· Our staff met with the county to form a group approach.
· Our staff approached the South West Water Management District to negotiate a use deal for the lake – which is a separate 54 acre piece.
· Each city commissioner was briefed and staff ordered an appraisal, which the entire commission received in Jan 2019. The property was appraised at $11.7 million – based on highest & best use.
· The county proceeded to submit the property through their evaluation matrix in the April/May 2019 timeframe. This took roughly 9 months and the property scored #1 for environmental protection.
· However, the county questioned the viability of the entire property and focused on the front 33 acres.
· The county took the matrix to the county commission in January 2020.
· They followed by getting their own appraisal on only the 33 acres and based the value on open space. This was completed in May 2020 and showed a value of $5.2M.
· Of course, at this point, we were on high alert with Covid and time was slipping away. The county, being the lead during our state of emergency, put this and all other projects on the back burner.
· With no response from the county, the estate put the property under contract with a developer.
· It’s also important to know that the county was the only entity dealing with the estate. Up until this point, the city had no direct contact with the attorney for the estate or had NO knowledge of a pending contract.
So where do we go from here?
· Because the property is under contract, we have to wait until the developer has completed their 60 day due diligence period to see if they are moving ahead with the purchase. This date is Oct 17th.
· In the meantime, the city manager & county administrator have been meeting weekly to come up with a proposal to bring to the various commissions, immediately following the due diligence deadline.
· Both the city manager and county administrator are now in contact with the estate and have told them in no uncertain terms that if the developer deal falls through, we want to have the first chance to make an offer.
How will we pay for it?
· From the city’s perspective, our staff is looking at the Penny for Pinellas sales tax fund.
· They are looking at what projects are tentatively scheduled and which of those can be moved out or wait.
· We’ve currently given direction to our city manager to approach the county regarding the removal of the slated parking garage. If the county agrees that we can remove this from the 10 year list, then we would have roughly $2M to put towards the purchase price.
· On the county side, they have a land preservation fund valued at $15M. They are currently discussing how much of that they can spend on any one property.
· And finally, as a collective group, the city/county would apply for a FCT grant from the state. They will fund up to 50 percent of the purchase price.
· These are the facts! Political rhetoric aren’t facts.
· And again – I’d urge you – don’t take my word for it. Call my colleagues on the Commission. Talk to them about what they knew and when they knew it!