The City Commission held a special meeting Thursday afternoon to discuss proposals for commercial space at the State Street garage, but the meeting was practically over before it began.
While commissioners were meeting first as the Community Redevelopment Agency, City Attorney Robert Fournier detailed a list of potential legal issues with the process by which city staff obtained offers for the commercial space. Rather than risk worsening the situation, commissioners voted unanimously to scrap the submitted proposals and take a different approach, delaying the timeline of the garage's completion.
Fournier said he was under the impression that the city staff would present potential concept plans for the garage to the commission, and that one concept would be selected before developers were sought. This was the direction of the commission at a June 3 meeting; Senior Planner Steve Stancel said staff had hoped to present a concept plan before the end of July.
Instead, Ian Black, a real-estate broker working on behalf of the city to sell the commercial space, requested developers submit a proposal that fit one of the several options the commission was considering — or some combination thereof. At that point, Fournier said, staff was more or less taking requests for proposals, which requires a different process to be considered and accepted by the city.
“I think there has been a legal issue created here, which could potentially open the city up to action from — I'll call them proposers, because that's what I think they were,” Fournier said.
Fournier also said there were potential Sunshine issues because Black and a team of city staff met twice each with the five groups that submitted plans for the garage. Other potential problems could have stemmed from the city's contract with Ian Black, design firm A.D. Morgan and the developers of Pineapple Square. Following a meeting with attorneys for Pineapple Square, Fournier said he was less worried about the latter, despite an agreement with the development that requires the garage be built by Febuary 2015, .
The commissioners, seeking to avoid any further legal gray areas, moved to ignore the submitted plans for the garage. Instead, they will consider the original generic proposals for a garage layout before choosing a developer for the commercial property.
City staff was recommending a 10-story building with four floors of commercial space above the parking levels. The project would have included a 100-room hotel and about 30 residential units.
Although the commission may have mitigated its risk, Fournier admitted the city isn’t out of the woods yet.
“I can’t say there’s no chance; there might be,” Fournier said regarding the prospect of future legal action. “I suppose there’s a lot of conceivable possibilities, let me put it to you that way.”
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