Mar 112016
 

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Arnaud and Naja Girard

Arnaud and Naja Girard, owners and editors of the new, digital, Key West the Newspaper (The Blue Paper) previously reported for the former Key West The Newspaper, Key West’s longest running independent weekly, published by Dennis Reeves Cooper, Ph.D., from January 1994 until November 2012. The Girards are perhaps best known for their discovery of and extensive research surrounding the US Navy’s 1951 claim of ownership of Wisteria Island but are also responsible for top investigative stories including breaking news coverage of the highly controversial in-custody-death of Charles Eimers on Thanksgiving Day 2013, the catastrophic police tasing of Matthew Shawn Murphy, and the property tax scandal involving Balfour Beatty to name a few. Arnaud and Naja have lived in Key West since 1986.


  6 Responses to “WORKFORCE HOUSING CRISIS PART III — PEARY COURT”

  1. It’s just another development for Pete’s sake, so nothing special or what we really need. It’s not a “good deal. ” Commissioner Romero is correct. The resolution earmarking “profits to an affordable housing trust fund” is clearly a marketing ploy to convince the voters that “this is a good deal.” Some City officials are asking us to worship this sacred cow of Peary Court “in the name of affordable housing.” It’s not what we need to buy.

    There is likely going to be no profit from Peary Court, nor should there be. The idea is to keep the rents low but they are not as proposed. Or will rents charged be higher to subsidize other projects thus defeating the whole intent? It reminds me of a Ponzi scheme. They are already poised to remain close to market rate, so we simply wind up with an expensive “moderate ” class enclave – for 55 million dollars, and we don’t even control the whole property since White Street Partners will retain some unknown portion (at least until they find some other naif to foist it off on.) What effect does having their 48 units (in the middle or scattered about) have on the rest of the property if the City buys in? I see disputes, tension, and lawsuits ahead with this. It’s the poison pill that should kill this deal.

    I MIGHT support buying PC, but I want it ALL, and not at that price, from these people, so that it is honestly affordable housing.

    Then again, the way the commission got hornswoggled and wiggled into letting rents go to such unacceptable levels Citywide by ordinance, and now suggesting lowering the remaining ROGO requirements for AFFORDABLE housing makes me wonder? Saving those ROGOS for the well-heeled maybe? And so now after 25 years of whining, we’re not winning anything new, just blowing 55 million on something that we don’t need (a surplus of moderate, market rate units which we have now.)

    Its just another big development , it’s nothing more. And it’s already there and it IS housing – just not affordable to most Key Westers. We also probably lose a million (?) in property taxes if its developed in some other acceptable way which may never happen. The present owners are collecting rents based on a price almost half the 67 million they asked of the City. That’s a cash cow for them, Let it stay there. YOU guys OWN IT, not us, thank you very much. We can’t afford it.

    Wonder what Balfour got from the sale versus the Navy’s take of the deal. The Navy should never have sold it in the first place BTW. Did the Navy get anything? The Navy could have excessed the LAND to the City or the City buying ONLY the buildings from Balfour with the Land Authority money and maybe Balfour continuing their housing lease as is until those 20 year old buildings aren’t worthwhile . They were already renting to civilians. . Easy and beneficial to all parties . But NOooo..! Easy neighborly and creative solutions could have been found, but it was all so secret, eh? Our biggest problem was ignored by the people who should have been prepared and told this was in the works for a few years, but never discussed – as most any commissioner will admit. WTF? The City Manager was told in an” Ethics Advisory “that he could only talk about it in a “behind the scenes manner.” .What kind of ethics, transparency, is this? Serving two masters I mean. That sounds unethical to me.

    How can there be any profit unless the rents are close to market rate, given that there will be a 45 million mortgage and ongoing maintenance and administrative costs on buildings that will probably not survive a 30 year mortgage?

    As to maintenance and administrative costs, the ones propagandised in the City’s proposal are absurdly lower than other Housing Authority properties, so one may expect a few unpleasant surprises to eat into the purported “profit” when the City has to further tax it’s citizens. Who pays for replacing the three burned units? Other surprises?

    If it’s such a good deal then why form a PAC which doesn’t really have all the information that any intelligent voter would require? And why don’t we have that info? It’s pie in the sky. Do you trust PACs? Hope not. The last one didn’t do too well with widening the channel and didn’t have the truth or facts on their side either.

    Hmmm, Ask yourself, “What would Trump do”? Laugh at us I think. It’s not a “good deal.”.

    Sincerely,and good luck.

    Harry Powell

  2. Amen, Harry.

    Pritam Singh, er, The Donald would split his sides laughing if he owned Peary Court and sold it to the city in this way.

    The former Aspen, Colorado city manager, who spoke at the local Democratic Party’s workfarce housing forum, told the audience the only way Key West can solve its truly acute workforce housing crisis. Do the same thing Aspen did. Or, rather, do what Aspen’s wealthy residents did. They created an affordable housing fund out of their own pockets, which was used to build the affordable workforce housing Aspen needed.

    That glaring ELEPHANT aside …

    What mortgage financing?

    It’s a farce to say Peary Court is affordable housing, when 90 percent, or more, of the city’s workers cannot afford to live there. The real backers of this referendum, the Key West lodging industry, developers, Realtors, the Chamber of Commerce, the Tourist Development Council, want the city to buy and furnish housing for middle class workers, instead of paying their employees a living wage. Isn’t that communism?

    Shameful, these two referendums.

    Shameful the stories told about how Jimmy Weekley and City Manager Jim Scholl and Housing Authority Director Manuel Costillo “negotiated” the $55 million price tag. The developers told the city’s crack negotiating team that they wanted $67 million for all of Peary Court: $12 million for the FREE “affordable housng” building rights the city had GIVEN the developers, and $55 million for the rest of Peary Court. Castillo told the developers the city could not earn rents on building rights, so the developers said, okay, we’ll sell you the existing 157 units and the three units that burned down for $55 million, and we will build the 48 new “affordable” units on land we retain at Peary Court, which was said to be where the old credit union was located, 2-plus acres, but actually was more land than that spreading through Peary Court, and everyone knew the 48 new units would be effectively market rate rentals, called affordable.

    Had the city really negotiated, instead of agreeing to the developers’ asking price, the city should at the very least gotten ALL of Peary Court for $55 million, including the FREE 48 building rights the city had GIVEN the developers.

    Better, the city should have gotten ALL of Peary Court for $45 million, which would have reduced the purchase money mortgage by about $10 million, producing something close to actually affordable rental housing for perhaps 50 percent, or more, of the city’s workers. Costillo said at that meeting, the biggest concern he had was all the appliances at Peary Court might have to be replaced: stoves, refrigerators, dishwashers, air-conditioning units, etc.

    I wish you could have been at the city commission meeting last year, when I asked Jimmy Weekley what was the developers’ starting asking price?, and he said he did not remember. It was at Jimmy’s later public meeting in the ferry terminal that Costillo explained the “negotiations”, which I reported above. It was at that meeting, where a couple living in Peary Court, the husband said he had been a home builder, told of the many problems in just their unit.

    At the recent public meeting hosted by Jimmy Weekey’s PAC in the Senior Citizen cafeteria, a Peary Court tenant told of the huge mold problem in her unit, determined by a mold inspector. Michael Miller, a local architect, who sat on the city’s Historical Architectural Review Commission, as its chairman, when HARC was denying the developers’ plans for Pear Court, lived in a Peary Court unit. He told me the developers were not maintaining the units and they were full of mold.

    Over 200 lenders denied the city’s financing request for proposal, nearly all by not even bothering to make a reply to it. One lender made a county financing proposal, which would put the city’s treasury on the line for repayment of the mortgage, which the referendum wording does not allow.

    The referendum is like spaghetti thrown against a wall, hoping some of it will stick, but it isn’t spaghetti – it’s crap, and it never should have been voted by the mayor and city commissioners to go to referendum. Only commissioner Margaret Romero voted against it going to referendum.

  3. “Buy High – Rent Low!”

    – Wall St. Proverb

    Harry Powell says it best… “I MIGHT support buying Peary Court, but I want it ALL, and not at that price, from these people, so that it is honestly affordable housing.

  4. If the City is willing to spend 55 Million dollars on workforce housing then why buy 157 2 bedroom / 1 bathroom, 20-year old units at Peary Court at $350,000 each? Ocean Walk will be building 41 three bedroom/2 bathroom and 39 1- bedroom / 1-bathroom units for an average price of $83,750/unit. With 55 Million the City could build 656 units on land it already owns! 157 units at that $83,750 would cost under 13.2 Million. Is this really about workforce housing or is it about owning a nice piece of real estate in Old Town?

  5. CITY CHARTER:

    “1.08 – Approval by electorate required for annexation of any real property.
    Annexation or acquisition by any means, of any and all real property may only be by a vote of the electors of the City.”

    Does this mean: The voters must authorize the City Commission to NEGOTIATE a purchase contract for real property [what is happening] or does it mean the ACTUAL transaction must be approved by the people?

    How can the people give their “approval” of the “real property acquisition” if they don’t know exactly what that transaction will look like? The description of the property in the ballot is not specific [it could legally mean the City is buying just the buildings and the land “containing” the buildings — ie the footprint beneath the buildings – it is extremely vague – what DO voters think the City is proposing to buy? Are they voting based on a false assumption?].

    Likewise the price is not specified. The referendum just says 55 million is the cap. Essential components of a real estate contract are entirely missing because the referendum does not propose the City will acquire all of Peary Court and there has been no showing of what acreage the City is proposing to buy.

    Is the ballot legitimate when it asks the people to “approve” something without telling them what, exactly, they are approving? Any vote by the people at this stage can not reasonably be characterized as a vote “approving” a specific acquisition of real property – unless our charter provision is interpreted as meaning little more than the voters must give the Commission a thumbs up to negotiate the purchase of some unknown acreage over on White Street for up to $55 Million. Don’t believe that is what was intended by the voter initiative that created that charter provision.

  6. Am I alone in seeing some people getting a nice thank you payment for pushing this sale. Just part of the corrupt system. Nothing about this deal is smart business deal . Trump would not touch such a bad move.