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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Thursday, May 4, 2017 5 years ago

Winter Park seeks fair sale of Comstock property

Questions of fairness arose during the April 24 Winter Park City Commission meeting over the sale of a piece of property on Comstock Avenue.
by: Tim Freed Former Managing Editor

Can Winter Park find a fair way to sell its piece of property along Comstock Avenue?

A discussion of proper conduct and fairness arose during the April 24 Winter Park City Commission meeting when Commissioners looked at two offers to purchase the property at 301 W. Comstock Ave.

Both parties – Winter Park Redevelopment Agency LTD and Rowland & Company LLC – submitted offers to purchase the land and construct townhomes on the property.

But before the City Commission had the chance to vote on an offer, a question of fairness was brought up.

Attorney Rosemary Hayes, speaking on behalf of Rowland & Company, said that Dan Bellows of Winter Park Redevelopment Agency LTD had reportedly submitted an offer of “$450,000 and/or a thousand dollars more should anybody else bid.”

Rowland & Company LLC had submitted an offer of $455,000, but Bellows’ earlier offer put him at $456,000.

It’s unfair to use that kind of bid to acquire the property, Hayes said.

“To say ‘I’ll pay $1,000 more than anyone else,’ well that means I can win any bid that you guys have here,” Hayes said.

“That procedure violates the statute 163.380 Disposal of Property and Community Development, which charges this Commission with using a reasonable disposal procedure. I would submit to you that that is not a reasonable disposal procedure. … We all know that’s grossly unfair.”

But Bellows insisted that what he offered was completely reasonable. He also protested the fact that the city didn’t accept a previous offer of $425,000 – the previous highest bid until the City Commission decided to seek offers closer to the appraised value of $450,000

“I was the highest bid by like $55,000,” Bellows said. “Why did I not get it?”

“As for the recent bid, I’ve been doing Real Estate for 30 years, my bid is $450,000 and/or a thousand dollars more should anybody else bid. I don’t know how else to word it.”

City Commissioners turned to City Attorney Kurt Ardaman for council, who said that the process doesn’t seem to violate the state statute mentioned by Hayes.

Ardaman added that the Commission ultimately has the right to rule however they please as far as the process. It’s their land, and under the current charter they decide what’s a fair sale, he said.

“Is that legal?”  Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel said. “I had no idea that you could do that. That’s surprising and it makes me uncomfortable.”

City Commissioners voted down Bellows’ offer of $456,000 by a count of 3-2, with Mayor Steve Leary and Commissioner Peter Weldon voting in support of the offer.

City staff will ask the Commission what they wish to do with the property at their next meeting on May 8.

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Tim Freed was the managing editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Southwest Orange Observer. 


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