By Tim O’Meilia
Briny Breezes’ neighbors can rest easy. The oceanfront town-mobile home park has scotched any thought of high-rise condos and oceanfront hotels and will focus on a more low-key future — at least for now.
The nine-member board of the corporation that owns the park unanimously decided April 11 not to pursue the proposal by a Long Island developer to buy the park at a price to be named later.
“We did not have enough information on the sales price or the cost that would be incurred for going through all the permitting,” said Briny Breezes Inc. President Mike Gut.
Gut said he relayed the board’s decision to Kean Development Co. of Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., and the park’s commercial attorneys, Duane Morris of New York.
Kean had offered to pay the cost of seeking all the governmental zoning and land use changes with the promise that Briny would sell at a price based on appraisals done when the permitting was completed.
But if the shareholders —lot owners hold shares in the corporation — didn’t like the price “Briny would be on the hook for those expenses,” Gut said.
There was no discussion of the issue after board member Tom Oglesby read a prepared statement saying that Briny was not a distressed seller, the economic climate was not right for negotiations and the park would have no option on the sales price.
Oglesby said the park shouldn’t assume the developer’s business risk. The vote was applauded by most of the 50 or so residents at the season-ending meeting.
Duane Morris has a March 2013 deadline to bring offers to the shareholders before its contract with the park expires. The law firm will have to absorb $500,000 in legal fees unless a sale is completed.
“I think everyone is sick and tired of dealing with it,” said resident Tony Dugan. “We’re not selling anything. We’re not entertaining anyone coming in here [even] if they have $400 million.”
Earlier at the meeting, 19 lot owners submitted a petition urging the board to reject the proposal, saying that plans for repairs of seawalls, roads and other infrastructure are on track.
Pursuing the sale “would have turned the park into chaos,” said resident Paul Sullivan, recalling the turmoil of five years ago when shareholders agreed to sell for $510 million. The deal later fell through. “I think the park in general is very happy with the decision. I think the board acted very responsibly.”
John C. Kean made a presentation to park residents last month, saying his firm would not pursue zoning changes without the guarantee that Briny would sell later.
“I thought Mr. Kean was very professional,” Gut said. “We appreciated what he presented to us.”
The decision pleased longtime sale opponent Tom Byrne. “The interesting thing is, whether you’re for or against the sale, the people in Briny are tired of being under the cloud of uncertainty. At this point, we just want to move on,” he said.
Moving on means deciding the park’s future. The corporation’s strategic planning board is considering the costs of updating the park’s seawalls, roads and buildings. The town is rewriting its comprehensive plan with an eye toward allowing more hurricane-resistant buildings such as modular homes.
“Whatever will be done will be done over a period of years. The bulldozers aren’t coming in tomorrow,” said park strategic planning board member Linc Musto.
With one exception: Shareholders are voting by mail now whether to spend more than $30,000 for repair of the Flamingo Drive seawall. Beyond that, the committee is trying to develop a long-range maintenance plan, including the eventual replacement of the five Quonset huts.
Musto said the changes probably will not require any special assessments.
The town has an April 2013, deadline to complete its comprehensive plan, which hasn’t been substantially altered since 1989.
The major changes being considered include loosening the restriction of only mobile homes in the residential areas to allow modular buildings, which are more insurable, up to two stories high, especially on the larger west side lots.
The planning board also is studying an A1A business corridor that could allow small stories, low-rise condos and residential rentals.
Public hearings will be held in the fall.