This article, originally published by Al Zucaro on BocaWatch.org, is preserved for historical purposes by Massive Impressions Online Marketing in Boca Raton.
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Last week, Boca Watch opined on the golf course issues here in Boca Raton, but even Boca Watch sometimes misses the green on the first swing. Consider this a “Mulligan” as we try to clarify the issue.
It started simply, with, an offer by Lennar to purchase the western municipal golf course, which is located outside the city limits west of the Turnpike, in exchange for Boca Teeca/Ocean Breeze Golf Course and the remainder of the deal in cash. Importantly, this was a comprehensive contract using one set of terms so that nothing could go wrong. But now we are faced with something entirely different and if we are not careful, it could all go wrong. We must not forget that this is simply about our rights, as residents of Boca Raton, Boca Teeca and The Beach and Park District to make our community a better place to live and “tee off “ with a little golf, while safeguarding both long term residents and our community.
But as many things in government do, things got complicated, and now we have a threesome of players marching down the back nine. And let’s be honest with ourselves: this can not be about who got to $73 million first. It must be about who got to $73 million best, that being the best overall deal for the taxpayers.
Like many of you I grew up in Boca and love the community but, I am also uniquely qualified as one of the most experienced real estate attorneys in the country having represented The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development as Trustee and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in mortgage fraud cases. I do not have any financial interest in this transaction, I do not represent any party, and no matter which party prevails, I will not make a cent. Furthermore, I can look past the politics having supported Susan Haynie in the past and Al Zucaro in this last election in order to analyze the business transaction and eliminate the risk of failure to secure the Boca Teeca property for us, the citizens of Boca Raton. After all, securing this property with a green lush golf course today and not years from now with the purpose of restoring the property values of Boca Teeca is the vital component of this process.
The situation is not complicated, but has been made so by GL Homes continuing a multi-level campaign designed to maximize profit to their owner by using Lennar Homes willingness to cooperate with the city against Lennar. Lennar agreed to release the land swap and proceed to negotiate for the sale of each piece of property as two distinct transactions. Frankly, if I were their lawyer, I would not have counseled them to do this.
At this time, Lennar Homes has not hired a firm to begin a public relations campaign to influence politicians. On the other hand, GL Homes has attacked both publically and in cloak and dagger fashion using their Broward County lobbyist and others from West Palm Beach. Oddly enough the subject of the attack is not the western municipal golf course but rather the purchase of Ocean Breeze Golf Course by The Beach and Parks District. Ocean Breeze is property that GL Homes can neither buy nor sell.
Amazingly enough, GL Homes and their lobbyists did not stop there. They went on to encourage the city and these same politicians to use eminent domain to take Ocean Breeze Golf Course from Lennar. As residents with common sense, we must ask ourselves, why would the city risk years of litigation and unending legal costs when the willing seller is already sitting at our table and willing to sell the property to public? We all know that eminent domain by its very nature is a form of litigation that is bad for all parties because it generally takes a decade and comes with no guarantee of success. The lawyers get rich, and the surrounding golf neighborhoods of Boca Teeca get the “unplayable lie”(golf term meaning a ball that can not be played). That is what GL Homes and their lobbyists’ say is a good thing? Maybe for them and their private golf club memberships; but not for us, the ordinary residents, and our city greens.
So, we must ask ourselves: Why does GL Homes care about Ocean Breeze? The answer is simple. The resulting interference has been exactly as GL intended: confused politicians who are unable to grasp simple legal concepts and make even simpler common sense decisions.
Common sense says that we the residents of Boca Raton and Boca Teeca don’t want another ten years of abandoned, brown fields. We do not want eminent domain lawsuits encouraged by an out of town developer and confused politicians. We want golf greens, golf carts, golf clubs, and drinks at the 19th hole. We want lush golf greens and property values to recover so that we can simply live to play another round.
It is also important to remember that Lennar Homes is the only party with a local connection to our community. Lennar has a local office in downtown Boca Raton, and its leaders for this project live in and share our community. Look around you; Lennar is not a faceless big company, it has real employees with families that live in our community. These same families are vested in our Boca schools, parks, and care that our city finances, this golf course and Boca Teeca are a success.
But again this is all a show produced for the golf gallery by GL’s lobbyists and not occurring on the main course. Today, the main event is simply moving the golf course from the western communities where it does not efficiently serve City of Boca Raton residents to The City of Boca Raton where Ocean Breeze Community Golf Course can efficiently serve City of Boca Raton residents while we all are guaranteed to Tee Off Again!
The decision is clear. Lennar is the only partner capable of guaranteeing the sale of the Western Municipal Golf Course and the purchase of the Ocean Breeze Boca Teeca Property, while safely putting us in the clubhouse on top of the leaderboard with our $73,000,000 million dollars.
Next week let’s discuss a much more interesting question that none of our politicians are willing to discuss:
WHAT ARE WE DOING WITH $73,000,000.00 DOLLARS?
I believe that a 73 million dollar windfall realized from the sale of a recreational golf course should be used to refurbish, restore and rehabilitate other recreational green spaces for the Boca Raton community and not to be placed in the general fund for unelected city employees to spend as they see fit.
What do you think?
P.S.: “Politics is the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn’t happen.”