by Donna Capobianco, President of CVEMM

We received a proposal letter in November from the sales agent for the open land. The proposal reads as follows: 

“We would like you to present the following offer to the Master Management of CVE regarding the land purchase from Bast to the Robbins Group.

We are proposing a plan for an luxurious, active senior community development on the Military Trail, 23-acre parcel from the former golf course which consisted of approximately 80+/- acres. The Military parcel would be the only section that would have a future land use change from “open space recreational” to “residential”.

The plan could incorporate a combination of luxury-independent living/ALF/memory care/affordable rental housing, or a garden-style apartment community for sale or lease.

The Developer would be willing to provide a Brown Field Designation on the entire 80-acre parcel, and to donate the remaining 57+/- acres of the former golf course to the community, at no charge, for the cooperation of CVE Master Management and its Community regarding the future development on the Military Trail parcel only. The only contingencies remaining prior to closing with the Robbins Group would be an investigation period to determine:  

  1. Traffic engineering for the future traffic flow accessibility from the Goolsby traffic signal onto Military Trail would support the additional traffic generated by the future development. As an added benefit, this traffic signal would serve as an exit only for the Century Village residents heading north bound on Military Trail.
  1. Michael Goldstein can confirm that a Brown Field Designation can be obtained.”

At first take, it sounds like quite a gift. Once the underlying issues are exposed, it loses luster quickly. The CVEMM Board of Directors learned much over our two years of dealing with the unknowns of contamination clean up and have not lost sight that contamination exists in the land, ground water and has likely migrated to bordering association property. We know a Brownfield designation is only a starting point. We again reviewed the steps, costs and liability of accepting a deed to this contaminated land with our legal and environmental experts and again listened to their very significant concerns. To the best of our knowledge, there are at least ten critical, difficult and costly steps involved:

  1. Obtain approval from Deerfield Beach City Commission to designate land a Brownfield.
  2. Execute Brownfield Site Rehabilitation Agreements with Broward County

Environmental Protection and Growth Management Department (EPDGM).

  1. Pay environmental consultant to prepare and obtain approval by EPGMD of Site Assessment Report that meets criteria of Chapter 62-780.600, Florida Administrative Code, and conduct any and all additional testing required.
  2. Pay consultant to prepare an analysis of remedial alternatives.
  3. Obtain formal EPGMD approval of a Remedial Action Plan that meets criteria of Chapter 62-780.700, Florida Administrative Code.
  4. Implement and pay for the approved remediation procedure.
  5. Pay for environmental legal oversight during remediation implementation activities.
  6. Fund all technical & legal assistance associated with obtaining Site Rehabilitation Closure Order.
  7. Pay for and complete post-remediation rehabilitation (unused building demolition/removal, landscaping, possible irrigation, etc.).
  8. Pay annually for an environmental insurance policy.

Until step 2, a Site Rehabilitation Agreement is reached, we are open to being sued. And even then, the legal protection of the agreement may not cover CVEMM for everything. If you think it is unlikely, I can tell you within days of receiving this proposal letter, CVEMM was threatened with a law suit if we accept a deed.

Moreover, our environmental attorney made it clear, after the state approves a clean up plan it can and often does change and increase requirements. Finally, after years of clean up work, with all the heavy equipment and dump trucks going in and out (number of years corresponds to tax breaks and expense rebates allowed per year) it only ends when a Site Rehabilitation Closure Order is obtained from the state saying the job is done.

Clean up is not cheap, easy or pretty and cost is a moving target and only moves up. There is no way to obtain a clear or fixed cost and there are many complexities and variables all along the way. We have been told we currently live in the worst case scenario. We are abutted by contaminated land that is difficult to sell. Not owning the land means CVEMM has no obligations or risks.

All of these issues are likely some reasons, other than parcel 5 along Military, no one appears interested in parcels 1- 4. If a developer builds any type of residential community on parcel 5 that all abutters agree to, they are covering the land with buildings and that is considered remediation. Unless the developer plans a land use change of the entire parcel all the way in to Century Blvd, where CVEMM would be an abutter, our company has no say in what the abutting associations decide regarding parcel 5. We are not a Master Association. It would be inappropriate for us to make any comment or state any opinion. Development of parcel 5 requires the developer to show the abutting associations what he wants to build and gain their agreement. If he does not gain abutter agreement, he will not get the city to agree to a land use change. He may plan to build something desirable and lovely that the abutters agree to. We have no idea. Regardless, both our corporate council and our environmental attorney felt we should not put our community in any financial and/or governmental jeopardy nor should we pay anything toward cleaning up the site.

Given all the input, we came to a consensus we might consider accepting a deed on clean land that has received a Site Rehabilitation Closure Order from the state. Most likely, a developer would cover the land with 2 feet of topsoil with no obligation and no desire to go any further, leaving us a 60 acre sand box. At that point we would have to determine the cost of re-establishing the green space (grass seed, sod, etc.). We concluded if it ever got that far, it would be best to once again inform all our members of the issues and costs and ask you to vote on whether we should move forward or not.

There is no such thing as a free lunch. On the surface the letter sounds wonderful. But we know underneath lurks huge litigation and cost potential. Whether we buy it or accept a gifted deed, we would own contaminated land.  And anyone who owns it will eventually have to remediate it. It is almost three years since the golf course was closed. So far, no one seems interested in owning parcels 1-4. All we learned and shared with you last year and today may be telling us why. (Proposal offer declined.)