|NFCU has created very preliminary draft renderings of how they conceptualize their development of 100 acres of OLF 8; the BCC has said we will sell NFCU 100 acres in exchange for a Market Price and the creation of 300 additional jobs...|
The Escambia Board of County Commissioners has given clear direction to staff:
--Begin the process of negotiations with NFCU regarding their written offer to purchase 100 acres of our soon-to-be acquired OLF 8 field in Beulah.
--Begin discussions with NFCU regarding their written and verbal offer to pay for a Master Plan for this property based upon the parameters specified in our unanimously approved RFP for selection of a firm to implement this plan.
(The county unanimously approved a compromise draft document that will guide the development of the plan for the field, a document that maintains the focus on creating jobs, keeping the county in the running for a $30 Million Dollar grant to create a minimum of 1000 good jobs, and adding some amenities while FULLY considering the needs of the Beulah Community in this development)
So Thursday of this week the first kickoff meeting between staff and NFCU was held in Beulah at the NFCU campus.
Now, this was a very preliminary meeting, as we do not yet own the property.
(The property will transfer to the county in the next several months when some final paperwork is concluded. In late February or early March of 2019-- there will be two (2) ceremonies memorializing this profound land transfer deal between Escambia County and the US Navy--one will be held at Whiting Field's newly constructed OLF X in Santa Rosa County, and then one will be held at OLF 8 in Beulah on the same day.)
At this Thursday meeting representing NFCU were Kara Cardona, Kimberly Adderholt, and a representative from the NFCU General Counsel's office. For the county, it was acting administrator Amy Lovoy, Assistant County Attorney Matt Coughlin, and from the county attorney's office, Meredith Crawford.
Topics of discussion, according to folks that were in the meeting with whom I have spoken, included forming a selection committee to rank planning firms for the master plan, and the make-up of this committee. Additionally, the 100 acre portion of the field that NFCU wants was also discussed, however price, terms, and other issues have yet to be ironed out. This will require appraisals of the portion of the field that NFCU has expressed a desire to acquire. (NFCU has created and circulated some initial, preliminary renderings indicating how they envision utilizing the field--as indicated by the draft rendering above). At this meeting Thursday, county staff asked NFCU if they were prepared to make a formal, written offer via a purchase offer document for the 100 acres--as this has yet to happen. They did not do so at this meeting.
The other important discussion centered around insuring a planning process where no one party (neither NFCU nor the County nor any particular citizen) exerts undue influence. As a way to prevent this, an initial concept discussed was for the County and NFCU to jointly fund and hire a
Contract Manager to oversee the creation of the master plan--funded 50-50 by the county and NFCU.
For my part--I continue to believe that we need to stay in the running for a Triumph Gulf Coast grant--and I am thankful that the BCC and NFCU seem to be on this same page, as evidenced by NFCU president Debbie Calder's previous public comment affirming job creation as a component she supports, and also evidenced by the BCC's unanimous support of the draft RFP that explicitly requires the planner to weigh our Triumph grant application and jobs-creation within ANY plan that is developed.
As we move toward planning--if NFCU is going to pay for the plan or chip in for the cost, I will be looking for a very well-written MOU/MOA to be implemented that specifically outlines the roles and responsibilities of each party in the agreement. I will also make it a priority to insure that the BCC has the final say on the selection of the planner from the committee-developed short-list of firms. And of course it goes without saying that the BCC, as a body and by a public vote, will be the body that considers (accepts or rejects) the final Master Plan for the site that this process produces.
I also believe, upon seeing what NFCU envisions for their 100 acre portion of the property, that perhaps this concept, before it is finalized, needs to be considered by the master planner before the decision is made regarding where on the property these recreation fields should be constructed. I also want the MOU/MOA to flesh out, thoroughly, how the public's access to use of these facilities will be handled and what it will look like. This will be very important to me and to the citizens I represent.
Lots of work to be done, but I am glad the ball is rolling and we are now moving forward.
As I have said all along--I believe there is room enough for everyone to get something good from this property (i.e. good jobs for the county, nice amenities for nearby residents, and additional room for NFCU which will enable them to create an additional 300 good jobs)