Mark Hayward took a cautionary stance in the midst of all the congratulatory remarks made Monday about the state acquiring the remaining 80 acres of Rocky Point.
Hayward, the district director for the Small Business Administration, reminded everyone that an agreement to save the entire park for public access was hardly a done deal and that a “process” must be followed. As Hayward put it, “We’re 98.7 percent” of the way there.
Hayward knows what he is talking about. During his tenure as the SBA’s court appointed receiver for the property, more than one “done deal” for the park has imploded.
For a while it looked like this “jewel on the bay” would become some very high-priced townhouses and condos. They were guaranteed to be high-priced, seeing that the luxury builder was willing to pay $25 million for the land and heaven knows how many millions more to clean up the land and bring in water and sewers.
The burst of the housing bubble scuttled that plan, as well as less ambitious ones that followed. In a sense, the recession was the best thing that could happen for those who wanted to save this iconic place on the bay for future generations.
The next best thing was time.
As Mayor Scott Avedisian observed Monday, not far from where people once flocked to the saltwater pool, persistence and a steady and slow pace can win the day.
In this case, a combination of a $2.2 million federal grant that was due to expire and a major creditor who was fed up with waiting for what she was owed, enabled the city to acquire 41 acres of prime shoreline more than four years ago. That acquisition fueled the vision to save all of the former amusement park and paved the way for voter approval in 2010 of $10 million in bonds to buy it.
Time has worked to favor preserving the park for open space.
But there is still a process, and there are possible pitfalls.
A purchase and sales agreement, which is still being finalized, must be approved by the state property committee before it can be taken to the Federal District Court. Even if the judge grants approval, a qualified bidder can knock the state deal out of the box with a bid of 10 percent more than the state’s $9.65 million offer. The bidder would also have to agree to the same conditions of the state offer, which insists that 50 percent of the land would be open space.
The city administration and council, however, hold a card as well. All the while, the city has been billing the SBA for property taxes on the land based on the $25 million bid that was never consummated. Unpaid property taxes hover around $2 million.
Although the state won’t pay city taxes, the fact they exist ups the ante for a developer looking to scoop the site for 10 percent more. The opening bid suddenly jumps from $10.6 million to $12.6 million.
There’s no knowing, until the parties are in court, whether those costs are enough to keep developers at bay. But what we can say, the council’s support of this acquisition is essential. It’s all part of the 1.3 percent needed to seal the deal.