ETHICS IN GOVERNMENT
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AFFORDABLE HOUSING - 292 GARDENIA ST. CASE STUDY
History of 292 Gardenia Street and the Village
September 27, 2018 Mayor Chris Sante reported a homeowner approached him about properties he was interested in selling.
Mayor Sante asked for Council agreement to direct the Village Manager to contact the property owner and negotiate a price for the land. Council expressed agreement with the Mayor’s request.
Jan 31, 2019 The Council approved the purchase of the three lots for affordable housing.
April 1, 2019 the Village closed on the purchase of three full lots and a portion of a 4th from John Mannix for $315,000… the beginning of an affordable housing project referred to as the Gardenia Project. Two of the lots are on U.S. One (adjoin the sewer facility) One lot is on Gardenia, next to Plantation Key School.
November 17, 2019 – Chris Sante (no longer on council) signed an offer on the property at 292 Gardenia for $539,000 cash (with $1000 deposit) contingent on Village development approval… adjoins the lots purchased by the Village April 1, 2019.
November 20, 2019 – Seller, John Mannix, signed Sante’s offer on purchase agreement… John Mannix to Chris Sante – 292 Gardenia St at $539,000 cash, now a binding contract.
Click here to view the purchase contract
November 21, 2019 council meeting - the Council voted to direct the Village Manager to negotiate a purchase of 292 Gardenia St for $539,000. No tab – just a motion. No council discussion, no public comment. No disclosure that Chris Sante had the property under contract for $539,000.
From Minutes of November 21, 2019… note there is no council discussion or public comment regarding a $539,000 purchase and no disclosure the property was under contract as of the day before with Chris Sante for $539,000:
Note that the manager stated the Village could “place three affordable units on the property.” Is there already a plan to demolish the existing CBS two story structure that is 2576 sq ft of interior space and three separate living areas.
December 11, 2019 – Village provided a $1000 check for deposit on 292 Gardenia to Hershoff Lupino
December 12, 2019 – Chris Sante signed an assignment of contract – turning over his contract to purchase to the Village, acknowledged by Seth Lawless. No action by council to expend village funds before the purchase agreement was assigned to the Village by the manager.
December 12, 2019 - Council meeting, the council voted to reserve 9 affordable housing allocations for the Gardenia Street Project mentioning the three lots purchased on April 1 2019 and the fact the 292 Gardenia is pending. No acknowledgement as to how the purchase became “pending.”
January 2, 2020 . Tenant at 292 Gardenia got note from Chris Sante (Sante is not on council and no longer had a contract on the property) asking her to leave. And he was working with the Village to get her two more weeks and that the seller (John) owes her 4 months rent at $1300/month since he has to evict everyone. According to Helen, the tenant, she paid $1300 in rent for January and then as a result of Village pressure found a place for $1700/month… more than she could afford.. According to tenant, Sante suggested that she would get the $400/month extra it cost for rent plus moving expenses since she had to move prior to the end of her lease.
Click to read the story from Free Press about tenant Helen Grekel
January 9, 2020 the council voted to expend $589,000 to purchase the home at 292 Gardenia that was under contract for $539,000 - $50,000 less than this. Cannot find evidence that the extra $50,000 was spent based on review of financial records.
The resolution to spend $589,000 to purchase a non-waterfront home that would later be demolished by the Village so the property could be developed for affordable housing passed with no discussion.
TAB 11: Resolution Authorizing the Village Manager to Execute Documents and Expend Funds for the Purchase of a Parcel on Plantation Key for the Purpose of Affordable Housing Development Village Attorney Roget Bryan read the title of the resolution. Village Manager Seth Lawless presented the staff report recommending approval. Mayor Mike Forster opened public comment; no comment was offered. Councilwoman Deb Gillis made a motion to approve. Councilman Jim Mooney seconded the motion. Council voted and the motion passed 3-0.
Jan 13, 2020 – closing on 292 Gardenia $539,000 – closing statement included a credit from the seller to the Village of $1300 for last month’s rent that seller was holding for tenant. And 13 days of prorated rent.
Tenant, according to her, spent days moving and vacated Jan 31, 2020 --- water turned off probably by seller in spite of fact she had a lease through April. Never got any money from seller, Sante, or Village for vacating before the end of her lease. Single mother of 3 children in local public school. She was a park ranger at Lignumvitae State Park. She now has left the Keys – could not afford to stay.
While the closing statement shows the last month’s rent of $1,300 was credited to Village by seller, the Village did not pay the tenant her last month’s rent. While she had months left on her lease, she paid for January and finished removing personal property by the end of January. While still there her A/C was removed. The Village was cleaning up the property and left piles of junk at the foot of her stairway that she had to climb through – cut her foot on glass – right through her shoe.
Click here to view the Closing Statement
August 17, 2020 – Village applied for demolition permit for house
September 14, 2020 -house at 292 Gardenia is gone.
Since April 1, 2019 the Village has invested at least $854,000 purchase price, plus demolition costs and closing costs to acquire property next to our sewer facility along U.S. One as a site for 9 affordable housing units that have been reserved for the property. There are apparently three market rate non-waterfront building rights with the property.
November 2020 Correspondence with Village Manager:
Maria Bassett sent an email explaining the situation with the 292 Gardenia tenant being evicted.
Click here to view the email from Maria Bassett
January 23, 2020 Chris Sante was appointed to council
Maria Bassett, Acting Village Manager, acknowledged that Chris Sante was interested in a land lease with the Village along with obtaining Village grant money and nine affordable housing allocations reserved for Village use so he could develop an affordable housing project.
Does Sante plan to build more affordable housing units like the ones he did at 97 Orange Lane when he used the $200,000 from the sale of “affordable housing credits” from West Marine?