Port Royal Cocktail Party Buzz

August 19, 2006

MartiniBill Smart is working hard to convince his Port Royal neighbors that they should vote down the Community Maritime Park.

Port Royal is the only gated community in downtown Pensacola on the waterfront. The public can’t walk on its docks or fish off its shoreline. The units run from $500,000 to over a million. The development has benefited greatly from the investments and improvements made by Community Redevelopment Agency downtown. It’s also located next to the Trillium property.

Bill had a 33-year career in Abbott: senior vp of Abbott Laboratories and the president of Abbott Ross Laboratories. He’s a Yankee who moved first to Gulf Breeze in the early 1990’s and then moved to Port Royal in 1997-98. I served on several Gulf Breeze Rotary Club boards with Bill and on the South Santa Rosa Utility Board.

He has made substantial donations to PJC and UWF. I never thought he would become a NIMBY – Not In My Back Yard. He is the biggest contributor to Stop Our City.
Bill is telling his neighbors to vote “No” because the lights from the baseball park, music from any concerts and the crowds of people using the Community Maritime Park will disturb his peace. Downtown is just fine as it is for him and his neighbors. He’s telling them the Main Street Sewage Treatment Plant won’t be moved until 2016.

This is really disturbing because in a recent viewpoint that Bill wrote for the PNJ – He said he didn’t think that anything should happen with the Trillium land until the plant was moved. In other words, if the CMP fails, Bill believes he will have a ten reprieve before anything is built near his million-dollar Port Royal unit….by then, the odds of Bill still being alive or in Pensacola are slim.

….Stop Our City has no waterfront plan. If they win, nothing will happen for 10 years.

Meanwhile, young professionals move away, poor kids go hungry, healthcare becomes a luxury and the homeless numbers grow.

Isn’t this how the French Revolution started? Rich people living behind walls. Poor left to fend for themselves.

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18 Responses to “Port Royal Cocktail Party Buzz”

  1. East Hill Native Says:

    I was somewhat with you and listening until the end.

    ..poor kids go hungry, healthcare becomes a luxury and momeless numbers grow if the CMP fails? I’m guessing you have strong faith because that logic takes a leap of it.

    There are quite a bit of jobs in the area for the average worker (if they want to WORK), many of which include some form of healthcare, and affordable housing should be a part of the CRA’s focus.

    As for the Young Professionals moving away, a tourist attraction, mostly regional to local, isn’t going to keep young professionals here. I certainly hope the Maritime Museum gets constructed, but the rest of it is an “on the fence” issue with me.

  2. East Hill Native Says:

    pardon the mispelling of homeless.

  3. Jim McClellan Says:

    Well, at least he admits he’s a NIMBY. Some try to disguise NIMBY-ism as a sudden-onset environmentalism. What he really wants is a 27-acre buffer zone between him and the riff-raff.

  4. Bruce McDonald Says:

    East Hill Native may have been listening until “poor kids go hungry” (which may be a stretch, Rick) but East Hill is voting no, Port Royal is voting no, and Bayou Blvd is voting no, no matter the facts. Fortunately for Pensaacola, those voters are a small minority. I predict the new subdivisions will vote yes, the young people in apartments will vote yes, the African American neighborhoods will vote yes, and when the dust settles the Park should pass. The lively discussion should produce a very high turnout, and if so then the city will get what it deserves however the vote goes — if we vote yes, we get the start to downtown renovation, at no cost to taxpayers outside the CRA; if we vote no, we get nothing.

  5. Pensacola Pete Says:

    To East Hill Native:

    You contend “There are quite a bit of jobs in the area for the average worker (if they want to WORK), many of which include some form of healthcare.”

    Yes there are many minimum or near minimum wage jobs in the area. For a family of four, two parents and two kids, the parents would have to work THREE full time minimum wage jobs between them just to be at the dividing line between poverty and working poor. The only health insurance for these jobs is directions to the nearest emergency room.

    Nice job on the crack “if they want to WORK.” I take it you find poor and average workers to be lazy shiftless layabouts? Real nice, native.

    The local economy will continue to be depressed as long as we offer minimum wage jobs to our young people. In Pensacola $7 per hour is considered a good job and $10 per hour is considered a great job. Stats just released from the Florida Department of Commerce put the average wage for hourly workers in metro areas state-wide at $16 per hour.

    Any wonder why kids get their diplomas, pack their bags and never look back?

  6. Rick Outzen Says:

    I did stretch it a little bit, but if you read this week’s cover in the Independent News, you’ll learn hunger does exist in our school system – inweekly.net.

  7. Rick Outzen Says:

    East Hill Native:
    It’s incorrect to label the Community Maritime Park a “tourist attraction.” Yes, it may attract some tourists, but, more importantly CMP, will be a magnet for locals and for businesses to come downtown. It will add a sense of vibrancy that’s missing and will help make us attractive to more businesses considering relocation – that’s where the higher paying jobs will come from.

    This isn’t a new formula – look at the Charleston, SC, Memphis, TN, Ft. Worth, TX …all have developed similar projects. The components may not be exactly the same, but they each have invested heavily in their downtowns with some outstanding results.

    What’s sad is the SOC group refuses to really look at what’s happened at other cities. For months, I’ve tired to get them to examine with the IN five cities with minor league parks in their downtown areas. They wouldn’t participate.

    Whenever they offered a partial news clip that they believe supports their negative views, I’ve been able to counter with a deeper investigation. They don’t want to learn any facts that might oppose their views.

  8. Courtney Says:

    Just a thought:

    If FEMA does not pledge the $100 million our city needs in order to move the Main Street wastewater treatment plant, ECUA will obviously have no other option but to charge its users for the cost of relocation.

    From the June 20,2006 PNJ:

    Even with the political support, ECUA executive director Stephen Sorrell conceded it’s going to be difficult to get that extra funding.

    “There’s a very small chance that we will get this second component (of funding) approved,” Sorrell said.

    If the funding is not approved, it won’t halt the project. However, a much greater portion of the project’s cost could fall on local ratepayers. ….end

    If there is a good chance ECUA customers(Pensacola and Esc Cty residents) are going to have to pay for this cost, there will be very little discretionary income left in this town.

    Every homeowner and businessowner that I know here in Pensacola is feeling the burden of higher gas/insurance/property tax/health prices and costs. The residual effect is that everyone has curbed or dramatically decreased their spending habits.

    Despite my feelings that the public financial support of this project should be nil, I think that a majority of the people in this area feel so strongly that it will succeed so it just might do what the studies say it will do.

    With that said, this park is not our savior. With its construction we need serious relief from property taxes (especially from the county) and more support from the State of Florida for area projects.

    Most people around here like to compare us to Mobile because of their recent ecomomic successes. Most people fail to realize that Pensacola is the red-headed step-child of the State of Florida when it comes to State funding for local projects. We get pushed behind Miami, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, and Tallahassee for funds. Mobile is the only port city in Alabama and they contend primarily with Birmingman and Montgomery, and that’s it. Lately Mobile has received federal funding to bring in business to their area. We’ve got it much harder than they do.

    Maybe this park plan is what we need, but we can’t sit back on our laurels if it’s passed, it will be a very small start and we’ll need everyone in this community to be involved.

  9. Jim McClellan Says:

    Courtney:

    FEMA already has pledged some $135 million toward the cost of relocating the Main Street plant. (You’ll hear different numbers because of some programatic issues, but that is the amount that will likely be directed to the actual relocation effort.) The State of Florida has kicked in several million as well, thanks to Rep. Holly Benson’s untiring efforts. And ECUA is continuing to seek additional federal funding through FEMA and other sources to offset the remaining $100 million cost.

    The thing to remember is that about 75 to 80 percent of the public funding for the project is coming from businesses within the CRA. The bond issue will be repaid withmthe additional property tax revenue that is generated within the CRA. That additional revenue is created, in large part, by the private development in and around the park. In other words, without the park, we wouldn’t have (much) of the additional public funds we’re talking about.

    Whatever else folks in this community disagree about, moving the Main Street plant is as close to unity as we’ll ever be. It may well be that ratepayers and local taxpayers have to pick up part of that cost, but that shouldn’t impact or be confused with funding for the Maritime Park.

  10. Jim McClellan Says:

    The second paragraph, first sentence of the last entry should read ” . . . 75 to 80 percent of the public funding for the PARK project . . .”

    Sorry.

  11. p.a. ucci Says:

    The notion that 75 to 80 percent of the public funding for the Trillium venture stems from the business community may be technically correct, but the average city resident is the real payer. Gulf Power is the largest taxpayer in the CRA district. The average city household uses about 1000 kw per year. Gulf Power collects yearly about $200 from each household in the form of a City Tax and Franchise fee. Add to this fees of about $100 from other services and determine who really pays to support the CRA.

  12. Jim McClellan Says:

    Mr. Ucci:

    Okay, so take out the amount of increased tax collections from the Gulf Power property and what does that leave us with? Please respond. I’d be interested to know the answer. My guess is that even without Gulf Power, businesses are still paying 70 to 75 percent of the cost.

  13. Jim McClellan Says:

    Somebody please correct me if I’m wrong, but I read Florida Statutes 163.387 to mean that there is a baseline taxable value set within the CRA boundaries. As property values within those boundaries increase above the baseline, that increase in associated tax revenue is reinvested within the CRA boundaries.

    Now, with regard to Mr. Ucci’s comments above, it would seem to me that his example about Gulf Power is intended to have us believe that the company’s revenues are taxed, not the physical value of the property the company owns downtown.

    This makes me all the more interested to know what percentage of the CRA tax base Gulf Power represents.

  14. Courtney Says:

    Jim,

    I do realize that 70-80% of the funding for the construction of the maritime park will come from businesses in the CRA.

    I also realize that those businesses will be passing the cost of the tax on to their customers and not absorbing them as you failed to mention.

    I know the funding aspect of the two projects (maritime park construction, treatment plant relocation) are seperate from one another.

    My point is that the discretionary income of homeowners/taxpayers in this area has taken a huge hit because of the rising costs of homeowners and health insurance, gas and taxes from increases in property values. Unless taxes are lowered and costs of these items drop those businesses that pay for 70-80% of the property taxes in the CRA are going to have a more difficult time passing on those costs since a majority of their customers are from this area. Especially, if area residents see an increase in the cost of their utilities.

    Discretionary income in this area is already on thin ice and another increase in household expenses could affect the projected income of the CRA.

  15. Jim McClellan Says:

    Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. Real political discourse, without personal assaults. Thanks, Courtney!!

    If I understand your point correctly, you’re saying the additional property taxes paid by businesses will be passed along to consumers who cannot afford them.

    Two points in response:

    Of the Downtown businesses, only Gulf Power and Cox Cable are a monopolies. Every other business must face competition from others outside the CRA. Now, if one of our attorneys or eating establishments raises its prices to compensate for the increase, it risks losing business to those who are not charging extra.

    My second response is that most of the increase will be absorbed because of the additional business that is normally associated with increased property value. You will have more people coming downtown, spending more money and contributing more to our tax base whether they live in the City, or County or are from outside the region altogether.

  16. Courtney Says:

    Jim,

    I’m not saying “the additional property taxes” will be passed onto the customers who patronize douwntown businesses in the CRA district. First, there won’t be any additional property taxes. Second, I wasn’t implying that the businesses in the CRA will have to raise their prices on products and services in order for city and county residents not to be able to afford them. I’m saying that they are already on the brink of being unaffordable as the discretionary income of area residents has come under attack from the increasing costs of living here.

    Furthermore, if the burden of relocating the wastewater treatment plant is placed on the city and county residents, which it should be, then each taxpayer/homeowner in this county will have to contribute money that they could have spent downtown. With this in mind, the CRA district, a majority of which is commercial, would have to overcome that loss in projected income in order to retire the bond debt for the park.

    If our city council and county commissioners aren’t planning to provide some relief from property taxes and gas taxes the discretionary income that would have gone to CRA businesses will go straight into the city and county coffers and out of the hands of the residents. Just a theory I have contrived out of common sense.

  17. Jim McClellan Says:

    Courtney:

    By “additional” taxes, I meant the incremental increase in collections as a result of increased property values. Sorry for the confusion.

    Toward your other points:

    Fortunately, our economy isn’t a closed system. People move here. They visit. They invest. A desirable attraction will lure visitors and their dollars from afar. In fact, that’s the only way the economy can really grow. Otherwise, we’d all be fighting over the same finite amount of money and a handful of people would own everything. (I’m from a small town where that is exactly what has happened.)

    A project like the Waterfront Park, I believe, has the ability to attract people and investment dollars from outside the area. Rather than sapping existing dollars from locals, I believe the net effect will be increased economic activity, more jobs (in all sectors) and higher wages as the demand for workers begins to catch and exceed supply.

    One thing’s for sure: If we do what we’ve always done, we will get what we always got. The problems you cited above are where we are currently. The way out is by taking a bold step forward.

  18. Courtney Says:

    Jim,

    I can’t disagree with that. We just don’t see eye to eye on what we should do to make a bold step forward. I’m tired of talking about that and I’ve already made my decision at the voting booth.

    Either way, I can guarantee you one thing, that park won’t be weeds in one to two years time and we will have progressed in some form or fashion.

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