Palm Beach County late last year spent $2.4 million for a 1-acre parcel with a market value of about $626,000, a price Inspector General Sheryl Steckler said was “way out of line with market conditions.”
The county did not do an appraisal before spending $1.77 million above market value to buy the property at the northeast corner of Silver Beach Road and U.S. 1. County regulations do not require appraisals when county grant money is used for purchases by another government agency. Steckler is calling for this policy to be changed. “Why in a down market would you pay that much? By not doing an appraisal, the county has no documentation showing why they paid that price,” said Steckler, noting that the December purchase price was 283 percent more than the market value.
The county drew the $2.4 million from a $50 million bond issue approved in 2004 to buy the land for the town, with the intention of expanding parking at its marina and making boating access easier.
Attempts to reach County Commissioner Karen Marcus, whose district includes the marina, were unsuccessful today, but the director of the county’s properties and real estate management division defended the purchase.
The $2.4 million came from a bond issue that voters approved to improve waterfront access, the director, Ross Hering, wrote in a Sept. 23 response to Steckler. The purchase increases marina parking and creates an access from U.S. 1 to a site along the Intracoastal Waterway where a restaurant has been proposed, Hering wrote. “(C)haracterizing this as a simple real estate acquisition and focusing solely on the market value of the land acquired does not give adequate consideration to the public benefits derived from the overall project,” Hering wrote.
A Riviera Beach company known as Leasing of South Florida sold the property to the county and owns the proposed restaurant site. Two of its owners are Wayne Creber of Palm Beach Gardens and Raymond Mancuso of Jupiter, both of whom have been long been involved with South Florida Yachts, which has offices on U.S. 1 north of the intersection.
The company paid $2 million for the property in 2005, according to county records, but Creber said this evening that his company is not making a windfall from the sale. He said his company has spent at least $2.4 million on removing inventory and paying taxes and its mortgage since buying the property from Kahn’s Marine Service.
Leasing of South Florida has submitted plans to Lake Park to build the restaurant and a miniature golf course on property it still owns just east of the land the county bought. It hopes to begin construction by the end of the year, Creber said.
Source: Palm Beach Post
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