The city has voted to turn over to a developer the old 1927 high school building, which he plans to convert to an events center and destination.
The deal has several conditions, the main one being that Lake Worth architect Juan Contin, who’s spearheading the $4.5 million project, must have financing in place by July 10. Contin also must have a site-plan application to the city by March 4.
In the deal, the city also agrees to pony up $60,000 in permitting fees. At the commission’s Jan. 17 meeting, it had heard Contin say he only recently had learned he’d be on the hook for city and county permitting fees that total a half million dollars. Contin had said he’d assumed the city would cover all the fees.
Contin said he’d already planned to give businesses rent discounts of up to 20 percent, and having to cover the fees would put a big burden on his efforts to obtain financing.
The city has said it can’t just waive its fees, because they affect other city fees and because other applicants could challenge the city’s cherry-picking.
On Tuesday, City Attorney Jim Cherof noted that, in the language of the deal, Contin would draw down the money as needed, and once it’s gone, he remains responsible for any remaining fees, although he could again call on the city for help.
The vote to approve the transfer was 3-2.
Commissioner Jerry Taylor, himself a former mayor who’s again running for the post, said that he supports Contin’s efforts. But he reiterated his opposition to waiving the permit fees. He also said he told Contin the project probably will come in closer to $6.5 million, and Contin agreed. He said he has doubts that the project ever will happen and that, if the deal falls through and the land reverts to the city, it should keep the facade and build a new city hall on the lot.
Commissioner Wayne Segal also was opposed. Segal said Wednesday he worries that Contin that “doesn’t have all his financing together.”
The commission also voted Tuesday to place the property, across from City Hall, onto the city’s historic sites list. That will help Contin qualify for historical-related tax incentives. The vote was 4-1. Segal opposed that as well, saying it and the contract are linked.