By Paul Burdziakowski
For Hometown News
The Port Orange City Council has been grappling over what to do to kick-start the Riverwalk Redevelopment Project area and it seems as if the trend will continue following its March 19 meeting.
The City Council voted not to approve a motion to negotiate contract revisions at this time on the Riverwalk Redevelopment Project after failing to reach a consensus. The council decided instead it would like to pull back from the current contract provisions and have a special meeting with the developer in order to come up with a plan that can be accepted.
"It is about what they and we want to achieve," Mayor Allen Green said. "It is a waste of time for the developer and the city to negotiate if there is no consensus."
One of the big hang-ups in Tuesday's meeting was whether or not it was a wise move to pay an appraisal fee of $50,000 dollars for the Riverwalk Redevelopment Project area. Knowing the value of the land would greatly help in negotiations, but it could also be a risk and a possible waste of taxpayer money because the developer has the right to cancel the agreement after six months.
An idea was brought up of having the developer pay a portion of the appraisal fee since part of the land is owned by the developer. While this would help with the tax burden on the citizens of Port Orange, the developer is not required to put up money for an appraisal. Another idea to save taxpayer money was to use the published appraisals on the property. Past appraisals on the property are some five to 10 years old and members of the council felt it was important to have more current appraisals.
Citizens at the meeting voiced their opinion's as well and stated their main concerns were the lack of a development plan by the city and the risk of paying for an appraisal without an agreement from the developer.
Councilman Bob Ford agreed there was a lack of an idea of what would be done with the land. He also raised other issues of concern when it came to development of the area, which included how to raise the property in order to put it above the flood plain, what to do with the surplus water, whether or not the land is big enough for intensive development, infrastructure needs and cost, and parking issues associated with the land. The mayor responded to citizen concerns by bringing up the point the city could not effectively negotiate if it didn't know the land value.
City Manager Greg Kisela and Councilman Drew Bastian also were not keen on the idea of a land swap.
"I believe that there needs to be a swap but not in this particular way," Mr. Kisela said. "There are other ways to get there in order to get the park land."
"It would be easier to simply buy everything out but the city doesn't have enough money to do that," Mayor Green said.
A request for proposals on the sale or trade of city owned land within the Riverfront Redevelopment Project area was first brought forth on Feb. 13, 2012. The city entered into contract negotiations with a developer soon after and since that time extensions have been granted for continued negotiations.
The Riverwalk Redevelopment Project Area lies between Ridgewood Avenue and the Halifax River, north of Dunlawton Avenue. The project area is about 35 acres in size and includes a half-mile of Intracoastal Waterway shoreline. There are multiple parcels under different ownership among which the city owns about 17.25 acres. The city's goal was to help make the east side of Port Orange come back to life by putting in adequate recreational facilities. The vision now is for the area to have a mixed-use, which could include retail, office, restaurant, entertainment, residential establishments. There would also be an expansive waterfront park and marina.