Residents are reporting to Historic City News that they feel hoodwinked in the decades-old land deal between Mayor Joe Boles and former Mayor Len Weeks that provided a city-owned lot on St George Street for the two to build, with local restaurateur Chris Way, the Florida Cracker Café.
Mayor Boles, an attorney, and former Mayor Weeks, a commercial builder, provided then Mayor, Kenneth Beeson, with an estimate to spend about $177,500 constructing the building; part of which was to include public restrooms, accessible from the city parking lot at Toques Place or directly from St George Street. The twenty-year land lease that was struck, required the city to provide water, sewer and waste water, as well as paper products and trash collection for the restrooms. The city commission approved the lease July 24, 1989.
Only six months after commencement, the businessmen needed the city to assign their lease and rents to Prosperity Bank as collateral to guarantee repayment of a $350,000 loan. The assignment, returned to the bank, was executed on behalf of the city by Mayor Beeson — but Beeson’s signature appears to have been notarized by Boles; which, if proven, could present a problem.
The twenty-year land lease did not provide for renewals; but, five years into the operation of the business, on April 25, 1994, the partnership wanted some changes and more time to enjoy the use of the prime tourist location in the heart of the colonial quarter. With fifteen of the twenty years remaining, an addendum was negotiated that awarded the entrepreneurs three, five-year renewals when the original lease expired.
The option for exercising the renewals resides with Mayors Boles and Weeks, not the city. Each five years, the monthly rent increases by $250. So, when the lease finally ran out in 2009, the current rent became the base rent from the original lease plus $250. The second five-year renewal is being picked up at the end of this month. It will run from 2014-2019, and the monthly lease will be the base rent plus $500. When the final renewal is exercised, the rent for 2019-2024 will be the base rent plus $750.
Florida Cracker Café Lease dates:
July 24, 1989: Original lease
Mayor: Kenneth H Beeson
Term: twenty (20) years from August 1, 1989, to July 30, 2009
Total cost of proposed improvements to be built by Boles/Weeks/Way: $177,500
February 26, 1990: Assignment
Mayor Kenneth H Beeson
- City consents to assignment of leases and rents to guarantee payment of $350,000 loan from Prosperity Bank to Boles/Weeks/Way.
- Signature of Mayor, agreeing to the assignment, appears to have been notarized by Joseph L Boles, the beneficiary of the loan proceeds. Today, Section 117.107(12), Florida Statutes, provides that you may not be the notary for a transaction in which you have a financial interest or to which you are a party. Although this provision was not added to the notary law until 1992, it is not a new prohibition. This provision was merely a codification of the same prohibition established by case law dating as far back as the 1800s and as recently as the 1990s.
April 25, 1994: Addendum
Mayor: Gregory Baker
- establish three (3) successive five-year renewals (2009, 2014, 2019)
- establish three (3) five-year renewal increases of $250 each in 2009, 2014, 2019.
- release Christopher K. Way from lease
- assume property tax liability
- re-roof entire structure
Correspondence between one local activist, Mayor Boles and the city attorney, has been published asking the mayor to accept the reality of today’s economy and “do the right thing”, calling for an independent appraisal of the property and adjustment to the undervalued rent, currently $1,332.21 monthly. To date, according to Ed Slavin, he has received no response from Mayor Boles, however, he writes that City Attorney Ronald W. Brown, confirmed that the city has no authority to compel the Mayor to do anything regarding the lease.
Slavin says that he is continuing to look into the propriety with which the lease addendum was executed, if it is still enforceable against the city, and if Boles and Weeks are eligible to continue to profit by the transaction now that they have sold the business and are merely subletting the property.
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