Flagler County government has found a way to get rid of one of its white elephants, the moldy Sears building it bought a year ago for $1.125 million even though it didn’t need it, in the culmination of at times hurried and mostly opaque negotiations out of commissioners’ view.
According to a plan commissioners are expected to vote on at a meeting this evening, the county will sell the building for $1 million, resulting in a loss of $170,000 once the difference with the original purchase price and the money the county has spent on building mitigation and maintenance is calculated. (County Administrator Jerry Cameron said with the clock still running, that final figure may rise to $250,000.) The county will settle out of court with one of the three parties it threatened to sue–Realtor Margaret Sheehan-Jones.
It isn’t clear if Sheehan-Jones stands to make a commission on this latest proposed sale. “I do not know what the agreement may be, as we are only interested in our side of the transaction,” County Attorney Al Hadeed said this afternoon. “We just want a hold harmless once we pay the realtor identified by the purchaser, that is, a hold harmless from any other person or entity that might claim a fee. The purchaser has to resolve such issues, if any, and the purchaser cannot look to the county to either defend or pay any such claims.”
Sheehan-Jones had brokered the sale of the building to the county from its former owners. As part of the agreement with the county, she found the new buyers and brokered the sale to them. In return, the county agrees to drop all legal claims against Sheehan-Jones. She was the only one of the three parties the county threatened to sue who responded to the county’s offer settlement proposal last November.
Seeking to avoid the cost and delays of litigation, commissioners last November agreed to propose a settlement offer to Sheehan-Jones, to the building’s former owners–James and Adre’a McIntyre–and to Universal Engineering, the company that inspected the building for water damage.
“In order to resolve the matter, the Board of County Commissioners authorized me at its November 18, 2019 meeting to offer to you all, singularly and collectively, the right to take ownership of the building, or to assign this right in whole or in part to a nonparty of your choosing,” County Administrator Jerry Cameron wrote the three parties, “and with whatever combination, reimburse the county for the purchase price of the property, plus the cost of mitigating against further damage, as well as the costs incurred in pursuing these claims. The county feels
you are in the best position to repair and, if you choose, to market and lease or sell the property and that this would be the most equitable way to bring the situation to a resolution.”
Sheehan-Jones was the only one who responded. According to the county’s documentation, she agreed to find a buyer and “make the county whole.” By the time Cameron issued his letter, Sheehan-Jones had already lined up a potential buyer.
The new owners, should the county approve the sale tonight, will be the couple that owns Mia Bella Academy and the dance studio company known as Artists Simply Human–Brie Valenti-Crane and Braham Logan Crane. They intend to turn the Sears building, an 8,000-square-foot expanse perfectly suited for such a use, into a dance studio. The building is at 4888 Palm Coast Parkway. Its ownership by a private company would return it to the tax rolls, though for now at lesser value. The property appraiser valued the building at $447,000 in 2018, at the time when the purchase price the county paid was established. Its current value is less than half that, at $217,700. The 2018 property tax bill had totaled $9,100.
The county still intends to pursue the building’s former owners and the engineering firm, at least for the balance of its expenses. But the settlement agreement releases Sheehan-Jones and her agency–Parkside Realty–from any claims by the county.
The building is being sold as is, according to the contract, “without any warranty relating to the condition of the buildings or improvements.” But it’s still up to the buyers at their own expense and within 60 days from the effective date of the due diligence period to “determine whether the Property is suitable, in Purchaser’s sole and absolute discretion.”
The settlement agreement with Sheehan-Jones states that ” the County and Sheehan-Jones and Parkside agree to mutually release each other from all claims of any kind and from the Damage, the Claims, the Option Contract and the Property.” The agreement will take effect at closing on the property.