Editor’s Note, 3/15/23, 1:25: This story has been updated with a comment from BCYC and editorial changes relevant to that statement.
After meeting Dec. 20 with the attorney for Boca Ciega Yacht Club, Commodore Roger Gilmore, and other representatives from BCYC, Gulfport almost had an end to the ongoing debates about the future of the Club.
But that’s not how it worked out.
Gulfport’s City Manager Jim O’Reilly and City Attorney Andy Salzman believed they had, on behalf of the city, reached a mutually agreeable lease with representatives from BCYC. Sometime after the new year, when the club changed commodores, it returned the lease to the city not with a signature, but a counterproposal.
But there is not going to be any negotiation.
On March 7, council said they would vote next month on whether to approve the contract proposed by the city. After that, it will be up to BCYC whether they accept it.
Ready to Vote
O’Reilly reported Salzman provided an outline of changes the club proposed to the initial lease offer. O’Reilly told council he and Salzman needed guidance on whether to have another conversation with the club’s legal counsel.
Mayor Sam Henderson made it clear that, in his opinion, that would not be necessary.
“I can tell you 100% that when we proposed what we were willing to do, that was our offer to them,” he said, adding that he never intended for the process to be back-and-forth at this stage. “I would like to vote on the one that we proposed, if they are still interested in that.”
Council and staff did not discuss most of the details of the club’s counterproposal, but Henderson alluded to it taking away a considerable amount of what the city intended for the area.
“I don’t think we offered anything that required negotiation. I’d like to vote on what we offered them in the first place,” he said. “And if they’re interested in that, they can take it. That’s where I’m at. I don’t know about the rest of the council.”
Ward III Councilmember Paul Ray offered his support for that move immediately.
“I’m with you on that,” he said to Henderson. “I would like to say that we offer it back to them saying, ‘That is our final offer.’”
Ray seconded Henderson’s opinion that the issue has dragged on for too long, referring to it as “the never-ending story.”
Vice Mayor Christine Brown (Ward II) supported the decision to vote on the city’s proposal, as did councilmembers Michael Fridovich and April Thanos.
Boca Ciega Yacht Club: A Tale of Two Proposals
Here are some of the areas in which the two parties’ offers differed:
The city’s proposal called for a 36-month lease with rent set at $2,000 per month. The club countered with $1,500 per month.
BCYC added a provision stating that, should the lease be terminated, the club could remove two sheds and a hoist, “returning the leased premises to their condition prior to the addition of the sheds and hoist by lessee.”
The club added conditions regarding access to the T-docks, beach, boat launch, hoist dock, in-water slips, and dry storage slips.
BCYC’s counter also included a lengthy addition regarding both parties’ responsibilities in case of damage and destruction to the property.
The club struck a statement about the city having access to the property at any time, adding instead: “Lessor and its employees shall not interfere with lessee’s reasonable use of the leased premises.”
The club added a provision allowing the city to enter the premises to inspect the property or show it to prospective buyers, investors, or tenants – but only after giving 24 hours notice.
The city stipulated in its proposal that “either party may, with or without cause, terminate this lease. Notice of termination must be given with no less than 90 days’ prior written notice.” The club struck this statement in its counterproposal.
That was the only provision mentioned specifically during the council discussion, brought up by Thanos, to which Salzman replied, “We had a 90-day notice. They didn’t want to have to have any written notice.”
A Generous Offer?
Henderson noted the club’s desire to lower the rent from what he thought was already a generous offer.
“I’ll leave it up to you as far as the way you want to address it with the city attorney,” Henderson said to O’Reilly. “But I’d like to give the council the direction to vote on the one we offered, which was very reasonable.”
The Gabber reached out via email to Boca Ciega Yacht Club Commodore Jenn Buckley for the club’s response to the most recent council statement. After initially declining to comment, she released a statement in a March 13 email.
BCYC Makes Their Case
Boca Ciega Yacht Club Commodore Jenn Buckley in response to the city:
“BCYC has been in Gulfport since 1965, and we look forward to remaining a viable part of the local waterfront community. BCYC has deep ties to the community through a long tradition of providing education on sailing, having started our adult sail school in 1967 and having graduated well over 4,000 adults. BCYC just celebrated its 37th year of its Annual Lighted Christmas Boat Parade, a beloved event for all Gulfportians and one that, for the last 21 years, has supported the Gulfport Police Department’s Operation Santa program.
“In 1986, BCYC began the Youth Sailing program, teaching local Gulfport kids how to sail for free. Since its inception, this program has taught over 900 youths the basics of sailing. In 2007, BCYC established Sea Scout Ship 915 for kids ages 13-21, promoting boating education through instruction and hands-on practice in water safety and boating skills, emphasizing leadership skills. In addition, the Rhumb Runners women’s sailing group regularly races with the Florida Women’s Sailing Association groups, bringing many racers to the Gulfport community. All of these events and programs have attracted new members to Gulfport, many of whom have moved into Gulfport to be near the boating club they’ve come to love.
“However, for BCYC to continue to operate safely, to continue providing all the events listed above, BCYC needs the following: access to our hoist to launch boats for sail school and racing, use of the boat ramp to launch sailboats (as the only boat ramp in the Tampa Bay area that allows sailboats to be stored with the mast up, this is critical to BCYC operations); access to the beach area for Youth Sailing; and fencing to protect our equipment, assets, and to maintain BCYC’s 501(c)7 not-for-profit status. Unfortunately, the lease currently offered by the City addresses none of these items despite assurances that these needs would be addressed. Therefore, we hope the City will reevaluate the proposed lease that BCYC submitted.”
On March 7, O’Reilly recommended council address the matter April 18, since the pending elections carried with them the possibility of two new councilmembers who would need time beyond the scheduled Mar. 21 meeting get up to speed on the issue. Council canceled its April 4 meeting.