MADEIRA BEACH – The city’s quest to add transient boat slips at John’s Pass has taken a step forward.
A special meeting of the Madeira Beach Commission was called June 10 to look at the means of acquiring Don’s Dock, an aging property on the boardwalk that offers 24 slips. The discussion was the most serious yet on the topic.
City Manager Shane Crawford and Central Services Director Dave Marsicano made the advantages of owning transient boat slips at the area’s biggest waterfront attraction clear. Such dock space is nearly nonexistent at John’s Pass and would meet a longstanding need, said Marsicano. He said the purchase of Don’s Dock would present a rare and valuable opportunity for the city.
“This is the only way to bring the transient boaters we want to John’s Pass,” Marsicano said. “If we want more than just a few dock spaces there, this is the way to do it.”
The dock spaces, added to a few the city already owns, plus fuel and bait shop sales, would provide a profit-making opportunity for the city, Marsicano said. Plus, the John’s Pass Village merchants would benefit by the opening up of John’s Pass Village to boaters who now pass up the area.
“Think of all the (boaters) going by John’s Pass. You could just pull in the pass, slide in and tie up for the night, go in and have dinner. Easy in, easy out, deep channels. It’s a home run,” said Marsicano.
Crawford said the Don’s Dock facility could be expected to turn a profit for the city within two or three years, perhaps even in the first year.
Financing options prepared by Finance Director Vince Tenaglia included paying the entire purchase price in cash, financing the entire amount, or paying half of the price up front and finance the rest. The cash portion would come from the city’s general and marina funds.
Crawford recommended the combination option to finance the estimated $1.75 million total cost of acquiring and fixing up Don’s Dock.
“Putting some money down makes all the sense in the world,” he said. The city had already planned to construct transient docks, at a cost of $300,000, and also has budgeted for debt service.
Commission members shared Marsicano’s and Crawford’s enthusiasm for purchasing the property.
“That would be good for the pass, the restaurants and neighboring communities,” said Commissioner Terry Lister.
Mayor Travis Palladeno predicted the facility would turn out to be “a true revenue maker for the city.”
Despite all the advantages, obstacles and drawbacks also come attached to the purchase of Don’s Dock.
For one, a condition report found the facility to be in poor shape, Crawford said. The docks need repair and the bait shop, which has been condemned, needs to be replaced. The cost could run several hundred thousand dollars.
The most serious concern related to the uncertainty of ownership. The existing tenant at Don’s Dock has a year to go on his lease, and a first right of refusal to buy the property, which lasts until the lease runs out. There was general agreement the tenant must be convinced to give up that right before the city can seriously consider purchasing the property.
“Unless that is given up, any deal is off,” said Crawford. “We can’t go into this without knowing if we will own Don’s Dock.”
“The right of first refusal, that’s a killer,” said Lister. “If we can’t get him to give that up, that’s a deal-killer for us. If we can’t get that, we shouldn’t do it.”
There was optimism the obstacles could be overcome. Crawford said the city could offer “pot sweeteners” such as a reduction in rent for the remainder of the lease if the tenant would agree not to purchase the property.
The repairs needed are affordable and included in the budget, he said. Crawford also mentioned a couple of grants, worth around $200,000 each. The city is in a good position to obtain at least one of these, he said.
The owner of Don’s Dock has said that he wants to sell the property right away.
“He wants to work with the city, but we have to move quickly, within 60 to 90 days, to make a deal,” Crawford said.
Lister, who ran Don’s Dock in years past and owns cottages across the street, said city ownership would be a good move.
“This is a good property,” Lister said. “It will make money for Madeira Beach for generations to come.”
The commission authorized Crawford to move ahead with the purchase of Don’s Dock.
Commissioner Elaine Poe was absent from the meeting.
Business tax increases
The commission passed on final reading an ordinance that increases the tax levied on local businesses by 5 percent. The increase had been discussed at length at previous commission meetings and has encountered little opposition from business owners.
Also approved was a resolution allowing residents, with payment of a fee, to turn their property into a paid parking lot during specified event days.
Crawford has said he hopes the measure will encourage more residents to allow people to park on their lawns for a charge. That would lessen a critical shortage of public parking spaces at major events, and give residents the opportunity to make some money, he said.
“That’s a smart idea. People are always looking for parking (during the events),” said Commissioner Pat Shontz, who has had a longtime involvement at John’s Pass Village.
The five events covered include the John’s Pass Seafood Festival, John Levique Pirate Days, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day. Fees for the permit that allows residents to charge for parking on their property will be $25 per day or $100 for the fiscal year.