Brevard Commissioner Barfield: Port Canaveral Chairman Weinberg’s Article ‘Blatantly Deceptive, Untrue’
By Space Coast Daily // February 10, 2017
'payback' for opposition to Port Rail Extension
BREVARD COUNTY • MERRITT ISLAND, FLORIDA – It’s disappointing but, not surprising that Port Commissioner Tom Weinberg would attack me with blatantly deceptive information and untruths in his recent article regarding Jetty Park.
It’s his payback for my opposition to the planned route of the Port Rail Extension crossing the Banana River and through the Merritt Island Refuge. The Port Commissioner would have you believe, that I alone could sell off a piece of Jetty Park and he claims that I am suggesting timeshares or high rise condos.
He’s absolutely wrong, so let’s talk about the facts. First, as Weinberg stated, Brevard County does not own Jetty Park. The Park was constructed in the early 70’s as a partnership with the Port providing the land and infrastructure and the County developing and maintaining the recreational amenities including camping, pavilions, restrooms and beach access.
In the late 80’s, when the Port was still taxing citizens, Brevard County stepped up with funding from the voter-approved Beach and Riverfront program to acquire approximately 10 acres on the southern park boundary. He states that the land was acquired by eminent domain which is misleading.
Of the nearly 10 acres purchased, only two parcels containing 1.29 acres were acquired through this process, because they were outparcels that would have left privately owned properties inside the park. All other parcels totaling 8.32 acres were bought from willing sellers.
This pristine land was never developed by the County for park use. However, shortly after 2000, the Port dug a retention pond on the property, cleared for overflow parking and ran a new road through the coastal hammock to the beach and pier.
Commissioner Weinberg’s description of the history of Jetty Park is distorted. The County was responsible for maintenance of the Park and was doing it exceedingly well until the Port took a portion of the park to construct a cruise terminal, thereby, reducing the park’s camping revenue.
Additionally, the Port constructed Freddie Patrick and Port’s End Parks and gave the maintenance, absent funding, to the County. With a reduction in revenue and increased land and facilities to maintain, a decline in quality was inevitable. When the Port took over maintenance, they raised fees and more importantly, funded capital improvements from other Port revenues.
Brevard County and the Port Authority had a 20 year lease agreement for the property that was due to expire December 31, 2015, and action was needed for legal purposes. Coincidentally, the County’s Emergency Management Office had determined a need to locate a site for a 250-foot 800 MHZ radio tower for public safety communications in or near the Port.
This tower would fill a “radio dead zone” and enhance radio signal coverage for law enforcement, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel responding to not only the Port, but to Cocoa Beach, Cape Canaveral and north Merritt Island.
Discussions began with Port Authority staff about the potential sale of the County’s property to the Port for their park improvements and the potential for locating the new emergency communications tower in a more suitable location at the Port.
Both agencies obtained appraisals to determine the land value for the parcels currently leased by the Port. Additionally, Port staff was conceptually in agreement with the tower being located at the Port, but they wanted 50% of the County’s revenue from any cell carrier leases.
Leasing available tower space to cell carriers enables the radio system to be partially self-supporting, reducing the amount of tax dollars spent on the system. After a year of “good faith” negotiations, consultant visits for antennae locations, and two appraisals, the County was informed, the Port was not interested in purchasing the property and also rejected a low cost lease purchase proposal.
In the final analysis, the Port and Weinberg wanted the County to give them land worth millions and then charge the County for the tower site which would benefit them and more importantly, our visitors and taxpayers.
As for the hoteliers’ proposal to the Port, I haven’t been involved in any way. The hoteliers’ actually became aware of the Jetty Park discussions when Weinberg and then, Port CEO John Walsh, criticized the County at the October 28, 2015, Port Commission meeting.
As I now understand their proposal, the hoteliers were willing to buy the Jetty Park property and exchange it for other Port property where a hotel, which has been in the Port’s Master Plan for years, would be built.
Lastly, without reservation, I do not want to see any parkland at Jetty Park used for a hotel or other non-park use. The hope was that the Port would take full responsibility for the park land and return to the public, funds that would be used to improve other Beach and Riverfront properties currently in operation.
I value my relationships with the Port Commissioners and CEO John Murray and look forward to continued partnerships with the Port.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jim Barfield was elected to the Brevard County Board of County Commissioners, District 2, in November 2014 and served as Chairman from November 2015 to November 2016.
Barfield serves on the following boards: Economic Development Commission (EDC), East Central Florida Regional Planning Council (ECFRPC), Extension Advisory Council, Florida Association of Counties Board of Directors (FAC), Vice-Chair of the Growth Management Agriculture & Environment Committee (GMAE), Space Florida Board of Directors Legislative Committee, Tourism Development Council (TDC), Transportation Planning Organization (TPO), Value Adjustment Board, Indian River Lagoon Council (Alternate), Junior Achievement of the Space Coast, and is Co-Chair of the Business Hall of Fame Committee.
To reach Commissioner Barfield, call 321-454-6601 or Email Commissioner Barfield.