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Shores to sell land in unusual auction


A 5.4-acre parcel located on the east side of A1A across from Pebble Bay that has been a source of civic contention over the past year or so will be sold in an unusual auction in April, thanks to a plan hatched by former County Commissioner Wesley Davis.

Re-plated into three 1.6-acre home sites, the property will be sold in the real estate equivalent of a three-dimensional chess game. Potential buyers can bid on a single home site, two home sites or the entire property.

If the lots are sold individually early in the auction, there will be a second layer to the process in which bidders can vie to buy two lots for a single price or to purchase the entire property.

If the combo bid is higher than the total of the separate lot bids, it will trump the earlier winning bids. Thus, there could be one, two or three winning bidders and participants who are high-bidder on one or more of the initial single-lot sales could go home emptyhanded.

The Shores Town Council voted during a special meeting last week to hire Davis’ company, Indian River Auctions and Appraisals LLC, to auction off the single-family home sites on April 8, with the timing intended to capture the interest of winter residents and seasonal visitors before they leave.

“We recommend that this auction be conducted in Indian River Shores at the ocean-view site,” said Davis’ proposal. “Our experience with this type of property decisively concludes that an ‘on site’ auction, under a tent, looking over the Atlantic Ocean will deliver the best results.”

Council members also approved a $6,500 advertising budget to promote the auction, and an agreement by which the auction company will receive a buyer’s premium equal to 10 percent of the sale price, with 20 percent of that premium being refunded to the Town.

The parcel is zoned to allow a 25-unit condo and has been appraised at $7.7 million based on that density. If Davis garners that price for the property in one or more winning bids, his company’s cut will top $600,000.

Paving the way for the auction agreement was a move by the Shores Town Council in January to declare the parcel as “surplus,” despite some residents’ call for the land to be made into a park or left vacant for beach access.

At a previous meeting when discussing how to set density restrictions on the land, Town Attorney Chester Clem said the council would have to weigh its desire to get the most revenue from the property against concerns over allowing too much development.

He said a happy medium possibly could be reached with 10 or 15 units, or that the council could limit the zoning to single-family instead of multi-family, but that anything less than the most generous land-use designation would likely reduce the purchase price.

If Clem’s logic bears true, the sum of the sale price of the three lots could be significantly less than $7.7 million, but that decision will be up to the market.

At his own suggestion, Davis has been hired to offer the property several different ways, with interested buyers able to bid on just one lot, on the whole parcel for a “single-family compound,” or on the whole parcel as a multi-home developer.

“We recommend auctioning the property using the method of selling each parcel separately, and then in combination, with the highest method of sale being final,” said Davis’ proposal.

So the land could sell as three separate 1.6-acre lots for whatever amounts are bid for each lot, and then a bidder could top the total price for two or three of the lots in a winner-take-all situation. “The bidders, on auction day, will determine the highest and best use for the property,” Davis said.

After the auction, the Town Council will need to approve the transaction at its April council meeting, with Davis being empowered to keep negotiating with buyers after the auction if a sale is not finalized on April 8.

Yet to be resolved is a proposed easement for beach access, a matter that is likely to come up when the Shores Planning Zoning and Variance Board meets at 2 p.m. on Feb. 13 to work on re-drawing the boundaries of the lots to form three 1.66-acre parcels for auction. That only adds up to 4.98 acres. Disposition of the remaining .42 acres is unknown.

Councilman Mike Ochsner has pushed for the council to formally and permanently set aside a five-foot easement on the north edge of the property to honor the longtime practice of non-oceanfront residents using the parcel for beach access, but Councilman Dick Haverland recently reminded the council that they’ve made no commitment about the beach access.

Developer Ed Schlitt, who owned the property while building the Pebble Bay community and neighboring Pebble Beach Villas, sold the property to Indian River County in the 1980s with the understanding that beach access would be preserved.  But the public access provision agreed to by the county did not pass with the deed when the Shores acquired the parcel in a 1993 land swap, even though the Town – which fenced the property – continued to allow casual beach access via an unlocked gate.

Ed Schlitt’s son, Realtor Steven Schlitt, and numerous Pebble Bay residents spoke at council meetings throughout 2016 demanding that the Town recognize and memorialize the beach access as a long-enjoyed amenity and a right.

Each time the issue of beach access has come up for discussion, Clem warned against the liability inherent in permitting beachgoers to cross Town-owned property, and noted that someone could be struck by a vehicle while crossing A1A to reach the beach access and blame the town for their injury.