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"Back in Business" with Pete Boinis - 05/20/09

If the commission's decision to purchase the Boinis beach property means that this city shall never again see or hear of Pete Boinis, maybe it is worth it despite everything else.

The decision to pay Boinis an exorbitant amount for what is nearly worthless land in pure market terms, using city contingency funds, is irresponsible and shortsighted. This will, in time, come back to haunt us, I'm afraid. For one thing, the on-going program to pick up all or most of the privately held dry sand areas on the beach is crippled, probably beyond immediate repair, and may be forever.

Boinis Property
Approximate location of Boinis property. ©

But I have this creepy feeling that this may not even be the last of Pete Boinis. Boinis tried to buy Deerfield Beach; he tried to take over the city commission with his own candidates. He already had Deetjen and Capellini in his pocket. How he got them in his pocket -- well, that is a good question that's never been fully answered.

Boinis' campaign and maneuvering to win approval of his plan was the most intense effort for a project by a private developer that this city has ever witnessed. All this was just to build a stupid restaurant? There is speculation that Boinis and his political allies dreamt of a string of casinos along the Deerfield beach front that would be anchored, of course, by his own pier property.

In fact, I can't think of any individual outside of government in recent times that has had a greater impact on city politics than Peter Boinis. He not only created a firestorm with his over-the-top plan for the publicly-owned pier, predicated on a terrible business deal with the city, but he is indirectly responsible for the downfall of Larry R. Deetjen, Steve Gonot, and Al Capellini. The history of this city would have been markedly different if it hadn't been for Pete Boinis.

The thing about this present affair about the dry sand adjacent to the pier that galls some people, other than the fact that it's another bad business deal with this guy, is the suspicious nature of his acquisition of that property in the first place. He got that land at the same time he was pushing his restaurant plan, and also at the time the city was looking to purchase as much of the dry sand areas on the beach as it could muster funds for.

The acquisition has never been officially investigated to my knowledge.

Five years ago, almost to the day, however, this very question was discussed before the city commission. It started with comments before the commission by Pam Militello, who was then a private citizen. These are excerpts of the minutes (city commission meeting 05/18/04):

Beachfront Property - Pam Militello stated that she wants protection of the beach for the public for all citizens of Deerfield Beach. She said that one of the best ways to protect the beach is through the acquisition of beachfront property. Especially, where there is a potential or likelihood that developers might use it. She commented on a color map that was presented by Mayor Capellini and City Manager Larry Deetjen at the May 4, 2004 City Commission meeting, outlining public and privately owned beachfront property. She said that Mayor Capellini stated his and the City Manager’s ongoing commitment to acquiring beachfront property for the public. In November 2001, Mr. Deetjen asked the Original Save Our Beach to support the City’s request to the State of Florida for grant money to purchase beachfront properties, which they agreed. One of the properties was a small parcel adjacent to the pier restrooms referred to as the Melrose Property. Since the pier restrooms actually encroached on this privately owned property the Original Save Our Beach strongly recommended purchase of this property. However, just last month, on April 1, 2004, Boca Raton Developer Pete Boinis purchased this Melrose Property for $200,000; which was less [than] the City’s appraisal value.

Continuing, Ms Militello stated that during the past few weeks the public has been made aware of the outrageous plan by this same developer Pete Boinis to build a huge restaurant complex on the pier property. She said that they have undeniable proof, that on January 6, 2004, Mr. Deetjen knew of the plans to build this huge restaurant complex at the pier, which plans included construction on the Melrose Property. Since the City Manager knew about the pier proposal as early as January 2004, why did he not alert the Commission and the public about the need to quickly purchase this property. She said why instead of protecting the best interest of the citizens, which is the City Manager and the Mayor’s fiduciary responsibility, they again protect the developer. She said that why does the Commission continue to allow the City Manager to have long private meetings with developers, where the public is excluded and the fate of the future of our City is being determined behind closed doors, by the City Manager and the developers.

Moreover, at the May 4, 2004 City Commission meeting Mayor Capellini and the City Manager indicated that the City has $3.5 million in an undesignated general fund and asked why wasn’t the Melrose Property purchased with the City money from the fund. In August 2003, the Community Redevelopment Agency was expecting a tax increment fund, TIF payment of over $1,000,000.00 and asked why wasn’t the Melrose Property purchase with TIF money. She demanded that Pete Boinis sell the property to the City for the $200,000 that he purchased it for. She also submitted petitions with over 200 signatures not gathered by the Original Save Our Beach but by people at the pier and others in the Community expressing their opposition to the Pier proposal.

Larry Deetjen, City Manager, presented a report outlining the steps the City Commission and City Administration has taken through the years to acquire many properties. He said that if all the properties listed were acquired the estimate is $9 million. Therefore, the Commission has prioritized its purchase, which the No. 1 Priority, was to acquire the Pioneer Park Apartments, which was successful at a purchase price of $580,000.00 and is the appraised value. He said that this was not purchased with City dollars but with the Open Space Bond Issue, which voters of this City approved overwhelmingly to support tax dollars to acquire lands for open space. Mr. Deetjen said that this too was attempted on the Melrose Property, but was unsuccessful. He said that he and Mayor Capellini met with County Commissioner Jim Scott, on July 18, 2002 regarding this matter. Also included in the report are various correspondences from the City Administration to various members of the County Administration and Commissioner Scott asking him to give the priority to the Melrose Property. He further stated that the City Administration have attended meetings at the County with County Officials but was unsuccessful effort to acquire the Melrose Property.

Additionally, Mr. Deetjen said that Mr. Boinis has no priority with the sale of the property to the City, as other cooperative property owners. However, the City did not have a cooperative property owner on the Beach House to the South. In which case, a special meeting was called and the Commission moved swiftly and the County would not purchase the property for the appraised value, just as they would not purchase the Melrose Property for the appraised value. In both cases the County was offering to purchase it at significantly less than the market value. He said that the property had gone through two real estate speculators within a short period of time, with an absentee owner, and the property was in jeopardy. Therefore, the City Commission acted swiftly on this matter in the public interest; and he commended them for said action. He said that the Melrose Property owner was frustrated with the County, due to the lack of progress. He said that over two years had gone by without the County acting on the Melrose Property, and with an appraisal that was far below what Ms. Militello previously indicated. He said that the City’s appraisal was approximately $250,000.00 and under the County program the City was eligible to be reimbursed for all survey and administrative work. Since the City had not received any support from the County, in April 2004, the City submitted under the recommendation of Vince Kendrick, Community Services Director, and an application for full funding to the Federal and State Government and anticipated approval. At which time, Mr. Boinis will be asked to turn the property over to the City of Deerfield Beach and fully anticipated his cooperation in doing so.

In response to Ms. Militello’s comments, Mayor Capellini stated that the outrageous appraised value for Mr. Boinis property from the County was $11,000.00; and the owner walked away from the table. He said that the City attempted to negotiate the property for almost two years and was unsuccessful. He said that the City purchased the Beach House for $1.00 more than Boca Developers bid on the property, who had planned to make it a private cabana for the Orchid Beach Condominiums. He said this report along with the color coded map indicating private/public property was merely to educate the public that all the beachfront property is not necessary in the hands of the City, but the City is trying to acquire it. However, it takes the help of all to accomplish this goal. Additionally, the City is restricted to what funds can be used to purchase property.

There are continuing suspicions, notwithstanding what Deetjen said here, that he dropped the ball, perhaps purposely, to permit Boinis to acquire the Melrose property. There is no question that Deetjen was privy to the Boinis restaurant plan long before it became public knowledge, and that he was its biggest booster inside government. He even attended Boinis' "town meetings" held to pitch the plan to the public, ostensibly as a private citizen.

So, it looks suspicious to some people. But it is doubtful that we shall ever know the whole truth without a thorough official inquiry. Meanwhile, it appears now that the city will have its beach at whatever cost. And Pete Boinis will be laughing all the way to the bank.

Still, I can't shake this feeling it ain't over yet.