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Palm Coast Warily Explores Buying $1 Million Yacht Club for Nature and Senior Center

| October 16, 2015

The Palm Coast Yacht Club is looking for a bailout. The city is studying whether to provide it. (© FlaglerLive)

The Palm Coast Yacht Club is looking for a bailout. The city is studying whether to provide it. (© FlaglerLive)

Palm Coast government is exploring turning the de-facto but exclusive senior center known as the Palm Coast Yacht Club into an actual, public senior center (the city’s first) in conjunction with a nature center. The dual use is compelled, if not made natural, by the location of the serene Long Creek nature preserve next door–and a state requirement for a nature center that Palm Coast must build.

It’ll be costly. The Yacht Club’s asking price is $975,000. It may also save the city money, depending on the approach. If the city were to build its own nature center, it could cost $2 million. But it won’t help the tax rolls. The Yacht Club stopped paying property taxes—including school taxes—in 2006, because of its community service activities, when its tax bill was ranging between $11,000 and $13,000 a year. If the city acquired the property, it would remain tax exempt.

The Palm Coast City Council discussed acquiring the property at a meeting earlier this week, raising more questions than answering them. While two council members–Mayor Jon Netts and Jason DeLorenzo–like the idea, three other council members are more reserved about it. They’re worried about what would result in a second, duplicative community center so close to the first, on Palm Coast Parkway.

The city acquired the $4.5 million Long Creek preserve in 2007 with money from the county’s Environmentally Sensitive Lands program and from the state’s community trust program, but part of the acquisition’s requirement of the preserve’s management plan is a nature center with classroom and exhibit space. “That’s the importance of the Yacht Club’s viability as a nature center that will serve Long Creek Nature Preserve, its location,” planner Jose Papa told the council. “There is no inconsistency in combining uses, both the needs of a nature center and a nature center.” (The city has designed a 5,000-square-foot nature center.)

Palm Coast has always lacked a senior center. An attempt to build two such centers in 2005, but through a bond levy that would have increased taxes, was rejected by voters. Rather than build new, the Yacht Club offers the city an opportunity to acquire an existing building and meet two goals in one swoop.

The 7,7600-square foot Yacht Club was built in 1992. It has its own commercial kitchen and large seating areas. The building’s roof needs replacing, the building’s cooling system is old, and there’s no telling what inspectors will find once they look over the place more thoroughly.

The long-term costs of a fully staffed center would erase up-front capital savings, and would require some kind of tax increase.

“The only way the Yacht Club makes any sense from a financial capital standpoint is that it would replace the nature center,” City Manager Jim Landon said. “If you don’t replace it, then your five-year, 10-year capital plan, you tip it on its side. You are required contractually to build a nature center. But we are working and that’s coming up, that the Yacht Club would satisfy that. So then you’d cut that out.” Some capital improvements would still be necessary to meet state requirements for the nature center, such as outdoor bathrooms, but they’d be more modest than building a new center outright.”

“I’m a big proponent of multi-use facilities,” Netts said. He’s seen various nature centers in his other functions, but those centers have struggled to find other uses. Single-use facilities have their uses when schools bring their students, for example, but beyond that, they appear “extravagant” to the mayor—making a dual use facility more attractive. But he, too, has questions. “I want to know what the rehabilitation costs are going to be,” Netts said.

On the other hand, the city is planning a major expansion of the Palm Coast Community Center, where usable space will be tripled to 18,000 square feet. The Yacht Club site is three miles from the community center. “Expansion of services at the Yacht Club does not remarkably improve the availability of city services to other areas of the community,” the city finds. In other words, if the city were to build a senior center, it would not build it at the Yacht Club location. It’d be located somewhere nearer to Belle Terre Parkway, near Indian Trails Middle School.

The Yacht Club facility run as a senior center would also need to be staffed full-time. It would not generate revenue but would actually cost the city considerably more to sustain. A nature center alone would not have to be staffed. In the long run, the dual facility would cost more to the city’s bottom line, erasing up-front savings.

“So either there’s going to be a property tax [increase] or you’re going to have to earmark some other type of tax, an electric franchise fee or something like that is always an option,” Landon said. “You can look for earmarking for facilities like this. But you can’t go into this with the idea, we’re going to buy this we’re going to open it, and then figure pout how we’re going to pay for it later.” At the same time, he said, “we believe we can buy the Yacht Club and renovate it and meet the nature center requirement for less than it would cost to build a new nature center.” But he cautioned: “We’re not promising you that.”

Council member Heidi Shipley is not interested in having two places that do the same thing within 3 miles. “It’s really way out of the way,” council member Steven Nobile agrees.

The next step—due diligence—will cost $20,000 to $30,000. It’ll include an appraisal, some design work and other standard reviews.

“I hear the philosophical angles, pro and con from one to the other, but as you know I’m a guy that makes decisions based on numbers. I don’t have  any numbers to look at,” council member Bill McGuire. “But you can’t spend $30,000 for due diligence if you don’t know where the money is.”

Only DeLorenzo was all in. “There’s an opportunity here to reduce our costs at Long Creek and give us flexibility of the facility,” he said.

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16 Responses for “Palm Coast Warily Explores Buying $1 Million Yacht Club for Nature and Senior Center”

  1. Dave says:

    I guess the first thing is how many seniors are going to actually use it, time of day of use, length of use vs the overall cost to purchase the building, up keep, electrical and water cost not to mention insurance and those famous taxes. .

    And regarding the nature center, what would the inside entail, art, stuffed animals, description of plants and trees is that something Palm Coast can support until the building’s newness wears off.

  2. scrub jay says:

    If PC buys club, think about a stop light at Fl Park Drive and Club House Drive.

  3. Curious says:

    The most interesting thing is the location of this facility. Located at the end of Florida Park (where it meets Palm Harbor), I am sure the residents who have been complaining of the high volume traffic on Florida Park will just LOVE this idea. Not smart.

  4. blondee says:

    Nature center????? Don’t we have bigger fish to try in Palm Coast, like coming up with a solution for the roads/busses to get the children safely to school?

  5. Lin says:

    City is really good at spending money
    Every piece of property they buy takes it off the tax rolls (or in this case keeps it off since they are not paying now)
    City should learn the difference between wants and needs.
    And then make capital improvements and staff a senior center so close to the community center which can already be used for that purpose? And senior center should be close to the center of town. Is there no room at the new city hall?
    Money money money
    Tree City
    Trail City
    Pretty City
    Tax City?
    Jobs City?

  6. m&m says:

    If this happens, who would run it and manage it. Will this be another golf course tennis situation?

  7. bhartmann says:

    Bad idea all around !

  8. confidential says:

    This means that the Palm Coast Yacht Club as an organization has ceased to exist in this location and in Palm Coast? If so is sad….the end of the good old times. Such a beautiful place the Palm Coast Yacht Club, were social and wedding receptions, art shows, classical concerts and also yearly event dinners like the one for the Yacht Christmas Parade were held there. Sweet reminiscence of enjoyable times in the company of our good neighbors of a Palm Coast gone by. If the economy wouldn’t be so bad I would say YES the city (us) should buy the Yacht Club as is an ITT original and part of our city history and probably our Palm Coast Historical Society should also be moved there with their volunteers and their carefully preserved archives of Palm Coast wondrous and hard beginnings by ITT pioneers… In Palm Coast yet we do not have our Museum in spite of the extraordinary work done by ITT building a Venice like city and many miles of canals out of swap land. That will be then a good location.

  9. Outsider says:

    How about buying it as a nature center and try staffing it part time with volunteers? You could then meet the requirement of having a nature center on the preserve and not have to staff it full time. It could still be rented out for weddings and such. Also, someone could tell the city powers that asking prices are in fact, negotiable.

  10. Layla says:

    I think this is a very bad idea. Palm Coast does not seem to know how to build a tax base. You don’t do it by buying property like this and taking it off the tax rolls. The balance is off here. Business tax revenue should be the larger portion of the tax base. It is not here in Palm Coast. I don’t mean they should pay more, I mean that we don’t have enough business here to help us with revenue, and that’s bad.

    Also, this is in the middle of a residential area way out of the way for most of the citizens here. Once again I am suspicious of this deal. Does it benefit ALL CITIZENS? No.

    We already have a very nice community center more centrally located. It, too, needs some work. Why not rehab it, enlarge it and make it good for the next 20 years.

    And maybe those selling the Yacht Club would rent it to the city while all this is going on?

  11. tulip says:

    I like Outsider’s idea and I would like to add to that. I remember that the Bridge Club had offered to pay a substantial amount of money to the present Community center to build an addition for their group to use. Perhaps they could offer that money towards the purchase of the Yacht club, where they have played in the past. Then the Bridge group would now have their own designated space to play and contribute towards the maintenance fee and the Nature center would also have their own space and there would still be weekend times left to rent out for events.

  12. Netts shoud backout says:

    [Note: Netts did disclose his past membership at the Yacht Club during the discussion.–FL]

    John Netts must exclude himself immediately from this discussion. He has been linked to the yacht club for years. He has a history there and I am shocked this has not been disclosed.

  13. Groot says:

    OMG! We live on a shut down golf course that has destroyed our neighborhood and the city has refused to help! Now, the city is even considering buying a private entity to bail it out? NO! Let’s see now…who lives nearby? Oh, the mayor!
    That “yacht club” is a failure because it is out of touch with the times and never had any slips. What yacht club does not have dockage? Only in Palm Coast. What a frigging joke and a slap in the face to all who live in Matanzas Woods. No Mr Mayor and Mr City Manager, we’re already saturated in yacht clubs.

  14. tulip says:

    Apparently the State says we Have to have a building so, do we build brand new and pay far more money, or just buy the Yacht Club? It would make more sense to buy the Yacht club and make it multi use for far less money.

  15. tomc says:

    Lordie Lordie. Our City leaders need to say NO

  16. Kevin says:

    Since the city is obligated to have a Nature Center and this building could meet that requirement at less cost to taxpayers it certainly is worth investigating and doing due diligence. If it can also house a senior center all the better. I believe that having seniors interact with other age groups in our community is much better than segregating them alone and away from other segments of society. The seniors can contribute their knowledge and expertise to the younger generation about how beautiful the area was before it got over developed and how important it is to protect what remains.

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