Winter Park city commissioners opted not to choose either of two purchase offers on Monday for a 0.45-acre public site in its downtown envisioned for new townhomes, and authorized staff to pursue the sale of a former bowling alley site on W. Fairbanks Avenue.
Formerly known as the Blake Yard site, the small parcel at 301 W. Comstock Ave. lies one-and-a-half blocks from Park Avenue. It was rezoned last November to R-2 with a Future Land Use designation of Low Density Residential, and in late February the city published a Notice of Disposal (NOD), seeking purchase bids for the property.
The property used to house electric utilities equipment until new David Weekley townhomes started being built around it, prompting the city to relocate its storage yard. Townhomes and single-family homes built around the property have sold for $599,000 or more.
The city received initial bids in March from an affiliate of Sydgan Corporation developer Dan Bellows for $425,000, proposing two duplexes or a single fourplex with 2,000-square-foot units.
Rowland & Company along with Phil Kean Design Group bid $370,000, proposing four townhomes of 2,100 square feet each, featuring "mid-century architecture with Florida cultural influences." Each unit would have a swimming pool deck above its two-car garage.
Bellows' high bid didn't meet the property's August 2016 appraised value of $450,000, which the two developers weren't aware of. Commissioners asked staff on April 10 to go back to the bidders, and request a second bid that at least reached that value.
Followup bids were Rowland at $455,000 and Bellows at $450,000, though Bellows asked in his e-mailed submission for the city to automatically increase his bid to $1,000 more than the highest bidder. That put Bellows' bid at $456,000.
Bellows' request to increase his bid above a competitor's is something the city had never seen in an NOD response, and this NOD didn't include language that prohibited it.
After staff and commissioners talked with the city attorney about if this was permissable, the commission opted not to decide on either bid. The city will keep the property for now, and staff will regroup to evaluate options for the property, said Dori Stone, economic development director.
Staff will also consider new requirements for future property sale NODs so that the "process could work more smoothly," Stone said.
Beau Rowland, owner of Rowland & Company, told GrowthSpotter on Tuesday he was frustrated with how the bid review process played out. After investing more than $25,000 preparing his offer, he'd like another opportunity to bid for the site.
Bellows also said Tuesday he was frustrated with the process, after submitting the initial high bid. He was unsure if he would bid again on the property.
In other news, commissioners authorized staff on Monday to sell a former bowling alley property (1.63 acres) at 1111 W. Fairbanks Ave., minus the land needed for additional right-of-way along Fairbanks.
The city acquired the land in May 2016 for $2.9 million. It features 250 feet of frontage on Fairbanks Avenue, and was bought in part to improve traffic flow on Fairbanks by dedicating about 30 feet to the Fairbanks right-of-way.
The city will now have to prepare an NOD for this property. Staff will have a survey conducted to segment the right-of-way and the remaining land to be sold, then have a new appraisal done on that land, Stone said. A timeline for those steps has not been established.
Bobby Palta, first vice president with CBRE in Orlando, is the city's representative for its property, and will eventually handle marketing of the site.