City Changes Policy For Unsolicited Land Offers

Unsolicited offers for city-owned land will be in a more transparent process under new policy.

A new City of Sarasota policy aims for more transparency in transactions for unsolicited offers for city-owned property.

Before, developers could peruse the city's database of property and if it found something that piqued their interest, they could make an offer, negotiate in private until the offer was formally presented to the City Commission. Now, any serious offers will have to first come in front of the commission.

Commissioner Paul Caragiulo said he welcomes alternative ideas, though points out somewhat jokingly, it makes only one type of way to buy property from the city.

"It's a de-facto [invitation to negotiate] for everything in the city," Commissioner Paul Caragiulo said. "I'm being a little facetious, but if the perception is that it's a back-door deal, but [yet] at the end of the day before you sell anything, you got public hearings and processes. It's not as if someone's dropping you off a check for a piece of property."

The discussion came up Monday while the commission discussed selling several properties in the city that it has advertised to sale through invitation to negotiate and arms-length transactions.

The Fruitville-Beneva sale to Benderson Development was the sale the drew the ire of several folks in the community, but more so by a competing developer, Commodore Realty, which owned a shopping center by the property.

When the offer became public from Benderson Development, , offering its own plans and financial package for the property, but commissioners sided with Benderson.

City Manager Tom Barwin said it might be a good idea to send out requests for competing proposals when it receives a serious offer.

"… With the unsolicited offerer knowing that they certainly have an advantage because they have a vision, but at least you're able to test the waters of the marketplace," Barwin said. "I think when it gets to you, no one can come forward and say they weren't able to compete for the parcel."

Commissioner Shannon Snyder prefers that developers who want to buy property from the city appear before the commission, and because the details of a site plan isn't necessary for a land sale, developers shouldn't make it any harder on themselves.

"If they got a vision, keep their mouth shut," he said. "It's real easy. Come in for a sale, and we'll buy your piece of property. It's not real hard. Put it up for an agenda and put it out for bid."

Vice Mayor Willie Shaw said the move would display more transparency in city transactions. 

Additionally, staff would not place property sales under consent agenda.

In other moves the commission approved the sale of 2425 Central Ave. for $16,000 to Bethlehem Baptist Church of Sarasota.

For 1440 Blvd. of the Arts, Barwin requested 30 days to analyze offers and options for that site. The property was last appraised as $790,000 in August 2011 and a new appraisal is being completed.

Related Coverage:

  • City Receives $3 Million Offer For Fruitville-Beneva Land
  • Commodore Realty Campaigning Against Benderson Deal
  • Benderson Development Gets Fruitville/Beneva Land Deal


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