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Shores rejects bid to switch auctioneers for town parcel


In the latest plot twist in the saga of the 5.3-acre oceanfront parcel owned by the Town of Indian River Shores, the Shores Town Council rejected a move to scrap a contract with former County Commissioner Wesley Davis and go with another auction broker to sell the property.

Councilman Dick Haverland proposed the town make a fair settlement with Davis to exit the contract, which would pay Davis an 8 percent commission to market and auction the parcel on A1A across from the Pebble Bay development, and negotiate a better deal with another broker. Haverland’s motion died for lack of a second.

Vice Mayor Mike Ochsner, who presided at the meeting in Barefoot’s absence, said he agreed with Haverland that the council had made a hasty decision signing a deal with Davis that could net him more than half a million dollars, but he was not prepared to scrap it and start over.

Haverland noted that the most recent proposal by Ron Rennick would cost 37 percent less that the deal with Davis, and that the Shores could make a “termination agreement” with a small payment to Davis and still come out way ahead. He said the Finance Commission, which has “at least two real estate experts,” could be tasked with vetting a broker or auctioneer to recommend to the Town Council.

Davis made a proposal in January, spoke individually to town officials, and then made a public presentation on Feb. 1. Prior to that, the parcel had been declared surplus and there was discussion about beach access and calls from the public to turn it into a park, but there was no urgent impetus to sell.

Town officials have long held that they don’t have a developer waiting in the wings to buy the land, which has been appraised at $7.7 million, despite rumblings to that effect by suspicious residents who want the green space preserved.

Councilman Bob Auwaerter said he thinks the buyer’s premium that funds Davis’ commission is still too high, even though the Town got it down from 10 percent to 8 percent of the sale price, but that he understands why the council went with an auction over a real estate broker, which would have been less costly.

“I would prefer to have a broker, but under the Sunshine law, we are prohibited from negotiating in private,” Auwaerter said. A public discussion over what price to accept, or whether and how to counteroffer, would not be practical.

Councilwoman Debbi Peniston said, “My own feeling is that we are a little far down the road. It’s a little late to trade horses in midstream,” adding that it was not good business to go back on a contract.

Mayor Brian Barefoot echoed this in a written statement that he had read into the record, as he could not be present at the meeting. ”It’s very poor form to cancel a contract,” Barefoot wrote. He also pointed out that the Ron Rennick company waited too long to make a proposal to replace Davis. “Why now? They’ve had a month,” Barefoot wrote.

Davis was given a chance to speak on his own behalf and he emphasized the importance of transparency, as all the bidding will take place in public at the property, which is being partially cleared and staged with a viewing platform so potential buyers can see how the ocean would look from their new home, or from the second-story of their condo or townhome development.

The parcel will be auctioned both as three 1.7-acre estate lots and as a 5.3-acre development parcel zoned as multi-family, up to six units per acre. The high single or combined bid will determine the highest and best use of the land, with traffic studies and the town code having the final say on how many residences are built.

The Town Council voted to set aside a 5-foot beach access pathway on the south end of the property, contingent upon the County Commission granting the right to build dune crossovers so Davis can market the parcel as having ocean access.

Without a favorable decision by the county on Tuesday, April 4, the 5-foot public beach access could be overturned by the Shores, as this has been a bone of contention between the Shores Town Council and members of the county Board. The Shores is expected to call a special council meeting next week, if necessary, to address the county’s decision on the dune crossover.

The county also retains first right of refusal on purchasing the parcel, a provision carried over from a 1993 land swap in which the county gave the Shores the property in exchange for some acreage in Gifford that the Shores owned. After the May 6 auction and acceptance of the winning bid or bids by the Shores Town Council, county officials have promised to quickly decide whether or not to exercise the option. Davis has 120 days post-auction to handle final negotiations and close the sale.