Beach Public Safety Complex: 2008
July 5, 2008, 5:59 PM
Filed under: Beach, CRA Districts

Public Safety Complex on the Beach

July 5, 2008

Note: See update article here.

On July 2, the City Commission, by a vote of 6-1, approved a plan to build a fire-rescue/beach safety facility at a cost of at least $24 million (some $8.2 million for the land and approximately $16 million for construction).  The complex — to be located on land the CRA purchased in 2007 on S. Ocean Drive between Monroe and Madison Streets — would replace the existing fire station on A1A 1.25 miles to the north.

City Budget for New Fire Station: Only $3 Million In 2004, Hollywood voters approved a public safety bond that included the demolition, rebuilding and expansion of the fire station located at 2200 N. Ocean Drive — a project then estimated to cost $2,252,500.  In addition to that amount, the city was slated to receive about $800,000 for beach safety as part of  the Ocean Properties Marriott development at Johnson Street.  Hence, the City has earmarked about $3 million for a new fire-rescue/beach safety facility on A1A.

This proposal was met with a chorus of NO from beach residents who do not want the noise, traffic, and intrusion of such a complex in their residential neighborhoods.

The six commissioners who approved the plan did not seem concerned by the cost.  “Safety, safety, safety,” said Commissioner Asseff. She and the other five commissioners said that moving the fire station 1.25 miles further south on A1A, would shave 45-75 seconds off rescue response time and this could mean a life saved at the southern end of the beach where 90% of rescue calls currently originate

Where will we get the money for this project?  Staff said that the Beach CRA was committed to subsidizing the cost of the complex which far exceeds what the city had budgeted to build a new fire station. Mayor Bober was the only one who opposed this expensive proposal.

Is It Legal?

Is it legal for the CRA to pay for construction of a fire station?  According to Florida law, if CRA funds are to be used for this purpose, all the taxing authorities must agree (i.e., Broward County, the Children’s Services Council, and the Hospital District, in addition to the City of Hollywood).

FL Stat. 163.370 (3) The following projects may not be paid for or financed by increment [CRA]revenues:(a)  Construction or expansion of administrative buildings for public bodies or police and fire buildings, unless each taxing authority agrees to such method of financing for the construction or expansion….

Will Broward County approve?  Have we asked the county for approval?

Or will the City be able to find city funds to build the project without involving CRA dollars?

Over-Priced Land

By late 2006, the CRA, working through United Trust Fund (UTF), had purchase rights to two single family homes, a vacant lot, the Barbizon Motel, and the Southwinds Apartments — all located between Madison and Monroe Streets. The CRA obtained only one appraisal, though then-commissioner Bober had asked for two (and he was the sole elected official to vote against the purchase, based on its cost).  The CRA paid top dollar for these properties, with evidently no regard for reports even then available that real estate sales were beginning to fall and some investors were stuck with properties they couldn’t sell.

However, the owners of these various tracts made large profits by selling to the CRA according to Broward County Property Appraiser records. For example, Dean Adler, the founder of Cops and Firefighters Business Network (CFB), sold the two single family homes to the CRA for $2.5 million, which netted him a profit of $1,140,000, an 84% gain on land he held not quite two years.

The historic Southwinds apartments were the subject of a separate deal.  Charles Black, who bought that property in 2005, ended up with a 64% gain in less than two years.  NOTE: The CRA spent $1,310,000 to purchase this property with the intent of clearing the land.  However, the Southwinds is a historic property and the city’s Historic Preservation Board denied the CRA’s request for a demolition permit.  Given that the building must be preserved, why did the CRA buy this particular parcel in the first place?  Was there a failure of due diligence here?

The owners of the Barbizon paid $820,000 for the motel in 2002, and wound up with a profit of more than $2 million five years later when the CRA bought it for $2,825,000.

After the purchase, the CRA immediately began demolition with no more than a wish list for what facilities would be built there (fire, beach safety, police, CRA, code enforcement, public works offices were all mentioned). In this entire process of buying and clearing the land, the CRA failed to inform or consult with the surrounding residential neighborhood.

Meanwhile, without a nod to safety on the beach, the City/CRA has spent the last few years approving 941 additional residential units, 2,254 new hotel units, and 306,571 square feet of new commercial development on Hollywood Beach, according to city staff.  So now, we must assure the safety of all these new residents and visitors.  What better justification for a controversial CRA land deal?

Summing Up:Where We Are Today

The Beach CRA has bought the land ($8.2 million), the City Commission has been told construction will cost approximately $16 million in addition, but no site plan has been developed and dollars have not been publicly identified.  Various renderings have been presented, showing a six-story structure with parking ramp, then a reduced four-story structure with a long open ramp right up against the privately owned homes next door.  Residential anger and disapproval of this entire process have intensified.  Six commissioners and the Beach CRA Director have a lot to answer for as dollars are identified and plans developed for the use of what is now referred to as “the CRA site.”





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