Our Island Conservancy, BICI, was in the process of establishing negotiations with Charlotte County over the future disposition of the old firehouse when the property suddenly went out to bid. We urge the Island stakeholders to support BICI in its efforts. The proposal to Charlotte County appears below:
Proposal for the old Station 10 Fire House on Don Pedro Island
We are writing to you today to formally request that you pause the Sale of County-Owned Building - Fire Station #10 (File No 23-627) and open discussions with the Bocilla Islands Conservancy, Inc. [BICI]. A successful negotiation will allow the old firehouse property to continue to serve the Island community.
On May 23, 2023, we provided an initial offer of $19,800 to purchase the property, which constitutes a figure roughly equal to the County’s initial purchase price. In 1989 the property was purchased by Island Residents and sold to the County one year later at cost.
Why putting this property out for bid is premature.
While a quick sale might seem attractive to the County in the short term, this solution does not consider the wider view of what is potentially involved with the sale of this specific property.
We acknowledge that the cash proceeds of a quick sale to a private buyer would on its face be equitable, in that it would return cash dollars to the broader community. However, the ultimate buy-price may not compare to the potential value to be gained by the County by pursuing an offer from the conservancy.
There are several factors that are likely to reduce the bids for this acquisition. For example,
All of the above will serve to reduce the ultimate buy price for the property. What remains of the cash will be further diminished by the complications that will invariably arise related to the sale of this property. One of these is the lack of a guarantee that the new owner will raze the building in a timely manner. Surrounding properties are in jeopardy from large wind-borne debris. And public safety is compromised until this building is gone.
How returning the property to the community benefits the stakeholders.
While the County may consider the sale of the property “fiscally responsible” in that the proceeds will go back to the County, acquisition of the property by a land conservancy is inarguably of public benefit. The Bocilla Islands Conservancy Inc. is a non-profit, tax exempt 501(C)3 public charity whose purpose is consistent with land preservation goals for the bridgeless barrier Islands as outlined in Smart Charlotte 2050.
BICI’s intentions for the old firehouse property dovetails with the Charlotte County Parks and Recreation Master Plan. From 1991 to the present, the old Station 10 has been the Island’s de facto community center, used for meetings, classes, demonstration gardens, memorial gardens, environmental education and more. These are essentially the same uses described in the Parks & Rec. Master Plan under the description of “mini-parks.”
BICI wants to continue the traditional use of the old firehouse property as our community gathering area. If the pilings and slab remain, a covered area could be created that meets the criteria for a mini-park as outlined in the Parks plan. It would be far less costly to work with the existing remains of the old firehouse property than to establish a new mini-park and community area in the future. And one of the primary permitted principal uses in the BBI special zoning district is for “non-profit parks and playgrounds”.
BICI is working in cooperation with the 225-member Palm Island Estates Association, Inc. PIE supports this proposal, as it would provide a conveniently located site for the many Island social and educational gatherings in the community.
How returning the property to the community benefits the public.
This “mini-park” would serve many more people than other comparably sized park in other neighborhoods because both visitors and renters attend these events. Our Islands are home to hundreds of rental units, and in any given season thousands of visitors and residents would potentially use this interactive space.
Instead of placing what will amount to a fraction of a cent in the pocket of each Charlotte County taxpayer, the County has the opportunity to provide great benefit to the ongoing tourist industry on these Barrier Islands. This potentially translates into future bed tax improvement for the County’s taxpayers.
We therefore urge you to stop the bid and open negotiations with BICI to determine the future disposition of this property. We believe that there is a solution that will provide the community with the continued use of the property while providing the County with a fiscally responsible way to provide public benefit.