The Royal Palm Beach Village Council last week authorized negotiations with Connect Church, formerly the First Baptist Church of Royal Palm Beach, on Okeechobee Blvd. to sell two tracts of land that total about 12 acres for $2.2 million.
The church plans to use the sites for parking and a memory care facility.
At the Thursday, Dec. 1 council meeting, Village Manager Ray Liggins said that the church has asked to purchase the two parcels, about 6.5 acres of an 8.4-acre parcel east of the church, and a second village-owned parcel of about 5.45 acres at the southwest corner the Porto Sol development.
Liggins said the sale of the property requires council approval, and by a super-majority if the sale is for less than the appraised value.
In 2015, the village contracted with Anderson & Carr and Integra Realty Resources of Miami to appraise the two parcels.
“Adjusting the appraisals for the amount of property being sold, the two appraisals totaled $2.46 million and $3.6 million,” Liggins said. “The average of the appraisals is $3 million. Connect Church is offering $2.2 million for the two parcels with the following understanding: a $50,000 non-refundable deposit after a 60-day due diligence period, sale to be within 10 days after the site plan approval, or by Sept. 30, 2017, whichever comes first.”
The site is to be limited to parking only on a site currently zoned for townhomes, and a memory care facility on the Porto Sol civic site. Staff recommended approval of the sale.
“With the use of the property, I am recommending that we sell it at under the appraised value,” Liggins said. “Currently on the RT-8 [zoning], there could be 52 townhomes built on that property, and I do believe that having parking that allows expansion of the church and supports the memory care facility is a use that is more consistent with what we’re wanting in the village. We don’t have a memory care facility in the village today, and if this helps them facilitate that, which I believe it does, I think it’s worth going down this path and hoping they can make this work.”
Pastor Dale Faircloth said the church recently purchased land to the west, and has brought four different proposals to the village for the land under discussion over the past 23 years.
“I think this one is the best, and so we’re excited about the possibilities of being able to obtain the land and expand our parking,” Faircloth said. “Our water retention is an issue as we enlarge our site, and we do need to revise our master site plan, so this facilitates that.”
Vice Mayor Jeff Hmara asked about the wide range between the two appraisals, and Liggins said that the lower appraisal was by a firm that the village uses more frequently and would have more confidence in.
Councilman Dave Swift asked whether the civic zoning for the site includes a memory care facility, and Liggins said that the county, which originally approved the Porto Sol development, approved the parcel as a county civic use.
“After it became part of the village, the owner did expand the use to village public use, so the memory care facility is an acceptable use,” Liggins said.
Swift asked what would happen if a developer for a memory care facility could not be found, and Faircloth said there have been promising discussions with builders.
Swift also asked whether the property could revert back to the village if it were not developed, and Liggins said a clause could be included in the agreement with the church giving up the $50,000 deposit.
Land planner Donaldson Hearing, representing the church, said several senior care operators are interested in running a memory care facility there.
“We all understand the intricacies that exist with Alzheimer’s disease,” Hearing said. “I know many of us are hopeful that within the next generation there will be a cure, but right now there’s not, and the group that we’re working with has been working with Pastor Faircloth for quite some time. They are definitely resolute on this site, and the need is here.”
Councilwoman Selena Smith said she was concerned that the church might sell the property to another owner who would apply for a land use change.
“We’ve seen it happen recently, so that’s a concern of mine,” Smith said.
Hearing said a reverter clause would protect the village, and stressed that the church is interested in the use being synergistic to its uses.
“Were not looking to flip the land,” he said. “This is really for a specific use with two parties that have an alignment in values that want to work together to make it happen.”
Mayor Fred Pinto said it is fortunate that the village is in a position to make decisions based on the quality of life impact, rather than revenue production, which townhomes would create.
Smith said she would like to have a better idea of what the project would look like, and Village Attorney Jennifer Ashton said the application would come back before the council several times before final construction approval.
Hmara made a motion to authorize the village manager to negotiate a contact with the church with the restrictions as stated in the agenda item, as well as a clause that ownership reverts back to the village if the plan for a memory care facility is not executed. The motion carried 5-0.