Rather than sitting, waiting for something – anything – to happen to the 1,200-acre jobs corridor in southern Tradition, the Port St. Lucie City Council Monday night decided to take matters into its own hands.
The council agreed to accept the land from Tradition Land Company, which is severing its ties to the overall development in the west end of the city. On Friday, the city is expected to close on the transfer.
But the land transfer isn’t as simple as signing over a deed, nor is it without expense. The city will be saddled with covering approximately $5 million in taxes and assessments on the property, at least until parcels get sold off.
Officials have said the city would have had to bear that monetary burden even if it didn’t take ownership of the land, because Tradition Land Company is walking away.
“We are on the hook no matter what,” said Mayor Gregory Oravec while sitting as president of the city’s Government Finance Corporation board. The issue is, “Do we want to be on the hook for less than the whole and have control and move forward, or do we want to treat it like City Center and be responsible for all the costs and none of the control?”
The council, an hour prior to the council meet, sat in its capacity as the city’s Government Finance Corporation to hash out the details of the land transfer and decide whether or not to move forward.
“I think this is the best decision for everybody,” said Troy Taylor, of Algon Group, during the regular council meeting. The firm served as the financial advisor to Tradition Land Company and worked with the city to come up with a satisfactory transaction for TLC, Port St. Lucie and Mattamy Homes – a homebuilder set to purchase the remainder of what is known as Southern Grove for residential construction.
Before leaving City Council chambers, Taylor told the council he wished the city luck with Southern Grove.
As part of the transfer, TLC agreed to pay $1.2 million in the assessed fiscal year 2017 special assessments and taxes. The remaining portion of just over $1 million will be covered by the city, City Manager Russ Blackburn told the council.
The 2019 budget will use general revenue funds to pay the fiscal year 2018 taxes and assessments.
The assessments are placed on the parcels within Southern Grove and used to pay off city-held bonds to install $165.5 million worth of infrastructure including roads, water/sewer lines, and other improvements.
Blackburn told the Government Finance Corporation that a group of several key staffers – and a representative from the private sector – are busy reviewing several proposals from firms interested in a joint venture opportunity.
That joint venture would be a public-private partnership aimed at marketing the Southern Grove jobs corridor and offloading the property as quickly as possible.
Blackburn said the city is also entertaining the idea of an outright sale of the entire 1,200 acres.
“I want to be realistic,” he said. “It won’t sell in a year.” It could take 10 years, he added.
Blackburn told the Government Finance Corporation Board that he hopes the panel will have completed its review of the proposals in the next three weeks and have a ranking for the council to consider by the end of July or early August.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to look back at tonight as an inflection point when things really started to change for the better in a significant way in the City’s history,” Oravec said Monday night.