Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What to do with a Sunken Yawt

It began with a phone call at 8:30AM.  One of the neighbors called me up on the cell phone and started talking.  I almost hung up, he spoke so fast I couldn't fathom what he was saying.  When I finally realized who it was, I begun to understand what he was trying to tell me.

At 8:30 on a Monday Morning, I'm usually sipping my second mug of half caff coffee while going through the Job Boards online looking for a Project Management or Business Analysis job.   I've normally got on some soft music in the background and I'm going through about 100 web pages, one after another.  It takes me until Mid Morning.  The last thing I'd expect is a phone call at 8:30 but since it was this person, it was pleasant.  Nice guy, he walks his ancient Black Labrador past the house a couple times a day and we've chatted a few times about goings on on our quaint little sandbar that is Wilton Manors, Florida, 33305.

I had to use my line on him though once he got started talking.  "I'm not a politician and I don't play one on TV".  I'm a volunteer here in the city and I'm on a number of boards, but my opinion really only counts when I tick the box next to a name.  I can advise the officials but I would never pretend that I have influence.

My neighbor started talking about the G Resort that was going in on the East Side of town.  The deal had just fallen through and it made it to the Pelican and then to the Sun-Sentinel a week later.  This had been discussed at the Commission Meeting last Tuesday.  The resort was to be a massive hotel and spa complex built on a particularly run down and blighted trailer park, the last of its kind in the City.   The Resort is to be a jewel for Wilton Manors, full of high end accommodations and would help us continue to be a destination for people on vacation.

I say "Is To Be" because while the original deal at the Yawt Property had sunk due to the foot dragging of the four trustees, the G Resorts people found another site at NE 15th Avenue and NE 26th Street on the grounds of the Church there. 

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That leaves what to do with the derelict Yawt Property.

It has many code violations due to improper construction, shoddy landscaping, and trash piles laying around.  The place is a badlands where the crime rate spikes when you cross into it.  It still has downed trees from Hurricane Wilma back in 2006.

On the other hand, if you remove the trailers, the trash, and the trailer trash, it is one of the few open spaces you have left in Wilton Manors.  It also is adjacent to the FEC railroad right of way, Colohatchee park, and near Five Points. 

The neighborhood was so rough looking that the street view camera did not even go in there.  The inset below shows the close up satellite view.  If you zoom out, Colohatchee is due South, Five Points is North and a block West.

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My neighbor, Tim, insisting that I had some sort of influence decided to tell me that what he wants for that property is a park.  I want it!  Its the last open space in Wilton Manors!  Its next door to Colohatchee!  Its just a great idea!  Don't you agree?!?!?

The thing is, I do agree.  I don't see how it can be paid for. 

Tim got restless and insisted that he and everyone else would want to pay a few dollars more in taxes for the property and so forth.  This is an election year, Tim, you're not going to get someone to vote for a tax increase.

I do agree though that this should be grabbed by the City.  The only other use for it would be low density housing and in this day and age, nobody will do that sort of thing, its just not economic in this business climate.

We then got onto some good old fashioned blue sky thinking.  What we came up for that property would be the following:

1) Float a 30 year bond at 3% to buy the property to be paid out of an earmarked increase of taxes.  Enough of a term to stretch the payments so that the impact on a single taxpayer per year is "nominal".

2) Negotiate with the Yawt family to sell the property at a deep discount.  If they get too demanding, send in the code enforcement officers and cite them on any and every violation that they can find within the current settlement for the prior violations and lien the property.  Bring this up to the Court that had heard the situation and ordered that the property be sold immediately.

3) When the city has the property, clear it out.  This cost should have been taken into account on the purchase price.  Remove all the trash and downed trees, the trailers and the trash. 

4) Assess the situation for the best use for the property.  The suggestion is a mostly undeveloped "ecological" park to showcase what we can do for the environment and to mirror what is available at the other parks.  Keep it as simple as possible.  Add a multiuse trail on the property for running and biking and skating.  All the other parks in this city are chock full of things - keep this one as open as you can!

5) Place a surface parking lot at the corner of the property sufficient for visitors but allow for expansion. 

6) Since we're next to and probably within the Transit Corridor Overlay District, reserve room for a larger parking lot and a train station sufficient for commuter rail.  We're getting a train station when the new FEC light rail line goes in, we need the space.

7) When you put in lighting, consider making all lighting Solar and add in a Windmill Power Generator.   There are significant discounts and rebates for doing such a thing.  The power generated will help lower Wilton Manors' electricity bills.  The site can become a showcase for Green Technologies.  It can also become a place where children can be educated on how we will be lighting our homes in the future - Oil will not last forever!

Granted, this is all Blue Sky.  The property will cost between 1 and 2 Million.  There are costs to the County to get them to drop or reduce their Liens for taxes not paid.  There will be a cost to clear out the property of all the trash and bring the property up to code.  There may be pollutants that need to be abated.  I would be surprised if there weren't years of old motor oil poured into the ground there.

Once all that is done, it might be the best use possible for an eyesore of a property and retain some needed greenspace.

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