Transparency Takes Backseat on Downtown Development Deal
According to attorney David Tolces for the Margate Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), the public does not have the right to view the contract brokering taxpayer-owned lands downtown. This in response to a public records request by MargateNews.net aimed at better informing stakeholders (homeowners, residents, taxpayers) of a deal local government has made with developers. ___________ When an “Available” sign by retail brokers High Street USA went up on vacant lands downtown, MargateNews.net inquired as to detailssurrounding the company’s agreement with the Margate CRA. Taxpayer-owned properties are on the table to be sold to developers, New Urban Communities, significantly under fair market value and with no site plan in place. To this end, the contract with High Street USA would inform stakeholders as to costs related to the sale of land owned by the City and its taxpayers. To no avail, the CRA attorney slammed the door on transparency, elected officials and the public. “With respect to whether New Urban Communities, LLC would be required to provide such an agreement between itself and its broker to the CRA as a “public record”, it is our opinion that New Urban is not a contractor acting on behalf of the CRA as provided in Section 119.0701(1), Florida Statutes. Consequently, the agreement would not be considered a public record, and would not be subject to production under Section 119.07, Fla. Stat,” responded Tolces to the request for information. But that is not how at least one CRA official interprets the development agreement between the CRA and New Urban Communities. Commissioner, Lesa Peerman, sees it as a contract. “The contract with the developer has been signed. It was a 4-1 vote,” she told MargateNews.net. “The developer can build phase 1 with the amount of units allotted for the TOC [Transit Oriented Corridor]. Phase 2 does not come into play until Phase 1 is complete. No one knows what will happen then. High Street USA is a very respectable broker and met with all the CRA board members to hear what types of businesses we would like to see," she said. In contrast, CRA Vice Chairman, Commissioner Anthony Caggiano, said he would more details on the High Street contract. “Who hired High Street USA? What are our contractual obligations? If High Street USA was hired by the 'Developer' how is that possible when they [developer] haven’t closed on the property? What site plan are lots being leased/sold through? I’d be interested in seeing those answers as well,” Caggiano wrote in an email to Colonna. But as an elected official, CRA board member, and watchdog of taxpayer dollars in the City - Caggiano may not have access to it. “It is our understanding that neither the City nor the CRA have any documents responsive to the request [public records],” Tolces wrote.