It's time for North Miami Mayor Andre Pierre to tell his former law partner Marc Douthit and his ex-campaign manager Willis Howard to come up with a better deal.
The two insiders and their partners are buying the mortgage note on the foreclosed Biscayne Landing site, which they intend to convert into an indoor snow park and tennis center.
But before they do, they want the city to release them from a host of financial obligations. If that happens, North Miami could lose out on tens of millions of dollars.
The city owns the 193 acres Biscayne Landing sits on. The previous developer had a 200-year lease with North Miami to build a thriving community of residences and businesses. The project was supposed to be an economic catalyst for North Miami, instead it was just another casualty of the real estate bust.
With that in mind, Pierre should be playing hardball with his pals. This is no time to acquiesce to demands from a group of politically connected businessmen with no development experience, much less knowledge of creating a theme park.
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If the city were to approve the proposed changes Solar Park Management Corp. wants, the company would reduce its lease payments to the city by $15 million. Two days ago Douthit laid out his group's plan for city residents during a town hall meeting. He didn't sway real estate lawyer and North Miami homeowner Carol Keys, that's for sure. Keys has been on point questioning this deal since it first surfaced last month.
She fired off an email to the mayor, city council members, and dozens of concerned residents laying out all the reasons this deal stinks. Read her letter below:
Last night, I received the answers I was looking for.
Solar Mountain (Park) intends to keep all of the developer's rights but not the monetary obligations. They also still retain the option to build 5,999 apartments and or commercial property. We no longer get 4% from the gross rent -- we get 25 cents per ticket. (That might be half-a-percent times zero.)
Why should we give our present 4% up? If there is no Solar Mountain then it is 25 cents times zero (i.e. if it is a failure or Solar Mountain Park flips to another investor.) Also, there will be commercial space, stores, restaurants and a hotel, there are no tickets for that. Not all visitors to Biscayne Landing will pay an admission ticket, they may only go to the other amenities.
Most commercial leases have a base rent WITH a CPI increase AND a percentage of gross profits. Why shouldn't we have what is customary, also? They are also offering us $7.5 million for a $24.5 million obligation because Mr. Douthit said the present value of $24.5 million today is $7.5 million. I have had two qualified people do the calculation and the amount is $21,769,000.
If this happens, they are giving OUR money away to temporarily fix a hole in our budget. Think of all of the foreclosed homes the city could buy, fix up, take care of all the liens and code violations, and then sell to the working people, giving them time to go out and get financing.
Buying foreclosed properties from the banks requires CASH, closing in 2-3 weeks and buying "as is" with all violations and problems. Most people in our city don't have the cash, time or knowledge to deal with this.
We don't know our end developers and we have no right to approve anyone they sell to. Who will we really be dealing with? Does the new developer have the knowledge and ability to finish the environmental cleanup with our funds? What protection do we have if they walk away and we are left with a 550 foot monster warehouse on our land - who pays to get rid of that?
Before we completely enter into a restatement and dilution of our lease and munisport agreement, shouldn't the city do some impact studies for the traffic, utilities and environmental obligations? Shouldn't we get the opinion from our planning department and other state and county agencies that will have to approve this project?
Mr. Douthit refused to answer, when asked, whether or not the city would be asked to open 135 Street to support the traffic flow of 3,000 cars per day, filled with different tourists every day, as opposed to residents who care about our city. Will 25 cents a day pay for the cleanup, maintenance and police protection for the volumes of people predicted a day.
THE CITY IS UNDER NO OBLIGATION TO ENTER INTO ANY NEGOTIATIONS OR MODIFICATIONS AT THIS TIME. WE SHOULD WAIT UNTIL WE HAVE THE REAL DEVELOPERS, PLANS AND STUDIES AND PROOF OF FINANCIAL CAPABILITY TO BUILD THIS PRIOJECT.
Otherwise, all we are doing is diluting our rights for a quick fix of cash, so the diluted agreements and obligations can be sold for a profit, at our expense. In three years we will have spent the money and be stuck with a 200 year lease.
WILL THIS BE ANOTHER ALBATROSS FOR NORTH MIAMI? Or just a Jurassic park?