PB: Guest Post By David Singer – Losing Thalatta?
State contract requires that Palmetto Bay return Thalatta Park?
Prediction? Yes! Hyperbole? Maybe. Looks like Thalatta Park will be required to be returned to the State of Florida due to the incompetence of Mayor Shelley Stanczyk, Village Manager, Ron Williams and Finance Director Desmond Chin. Way to go guys! Is it any big surprise that the Village of Palmetto Bay is in trouble again?
Thalatta Park is a 3.5 acre parcel of land purchased by the Village of Palmetto Bay with funds primarily from the Florida Community Trust in 2004. The Florida Communities Trust (FCT) is a State of Florida Department of Environmental Protection land acquisition program for projects that further outdoors recreation and natural resources protection needs as identified in the local government’s Comprehensive Plans.
The Grant Contract between the Village of Palmetto Bay and the FCT that made funds available to acquire Thalatta Park has specific requirements and limitations regarding the land and the house on it that was built in 1925. This agreement can be found here.
According to Grant Contract there are 18 “Special Management Conditions” which are required at Thalatta Park. While almost all of the 18 requirements are not most likely not being met, the following are four examples of requirements that have never occurred to my knowledge:
1. The facilities shall be developed in a manner that allows the general public reasonable access for observation and appreciation of the natural resources on the project site. [DS Comment: Eight hours a week of public access is in no way “reasonable.”]
4. 12 regularly scheduled and ongoing educational classes for programs that promote the protection of environmental resources shall be provided at the project site. [DS Comment: Not currently happening.]
5. A staffed museum shall be developed on the project site to provide year round educational classes or programs. [DS Comment: Also not currently happening.]
8. The project site shall be managed in a manner that will protect and enhance the listed and non-listed native wildlife species and their habitat. [DS Comment: This is not happening currently unless the valet parkers, caterers, band members and party guests happen to be botanists also.]
In addition to the required Special Management Conditions there are 7 specifically disallowed activities and violations at Thalatta Park entitled “General Obligations of the Recipient as a Condition of Project Funding.” The following are two or three disallowed activities that are occurring which violate the Grant Contract as far as I can tell:
1. Any use of the Project Site by a non-governmental person other than in such person’s capacity as a member of the general public. [DS Comment: This provision is violated by the Village barring the site to the general public during events where the property is rented.]
2. Any change in the character or use of the Project Site from that use expected at the date of the issuance of any series of Bonds form which the disbursement is to be made. [DS Comment: The use expected in the Grant Contract is environmental protection, observation and education. Rental of the park for entertainment and events does not conform to that standard.]
3. Such other activity or interest as may be specified from time to time in writing by FCT to Recipient. [DS Comment: I’d be shocked if the FCT has permitted environmental sensitive land to be used as a wedding venue.]
The facts are crystal clear after reading the Grant Contract that the Village signed with the Florida Communities Trust. Thalatta Park is required to be open to the public, used for educational purposes and NOT USED AS WEDDING VENUE FOR PROFITS TO THE VILLAGE OF PALMETTO BAY as it is now.
There are serious consequences to the Village of Palmetto Bay for not complying with the obligations, objectives and commitments required by the Grant Contract including “legal and tax consequences under Florida Law and federal income tax law”.
Once again this debacle is due to weak leadership and sloppy and uniformed management at the Village of Palmetto Bay. The leadership issue will solve itself since the Mayor’s political career is all but finished, fortunately, and she will not be sitting on the dais after she’s beaten by anyone in this November’s election.
As far as management is concerned, the Village Manager and Finance Director are expected to have knowledge of all contracts and obligations of the Village and should be directing such information to the Mayor and Council when they have ideas that deviate from the Village’s responsibility under these contracts.
Thalatta Park has gone so far from its intended use as represented to the Florida Community Trust without a peep from Finance Director Chin or Manager Williams that its hard see how they are remotely qualified to stay employed in their positions after this. They should be terminated at the next Council Meeting.
Williams and Chin are responsible for not enforcing compliance with the FCT Grant Contract’s strict provisions. And they are responsible for all the penalties to be incurred when the Village is found to be noncompliant with their FCT contractual obligations.
SDM Note: We have not verified any of Mr. Singer’s statements; they are his own. However, our experience says Mr. Singer is onto something here.