Election HQ Deal Remains Up In The Air





As Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over until its over.”

And the search for a new Broward elections headquarters/ voting machine warehouse is far from over despite the commission vote earlier this week.

In a 5-4 vote, commissioners picked the site of an old BJ’s warehouse store for the long-delayed project.  The “No” votes were Dale Holness, Marty Kiar, Kristin Jacobs and Stacy Ritter.

Despite the approval and the media reports, there are serious strings attached to this deal.

Within 30 days, the county must be satisfied that it can run an election machine warehouse out of the property under Sunrise’s zoning laws.

Or the deal is off.

Opponents believe that is necessary to obtain a rezoning, a lengthy process that could delay the entire project.

The county says that a county-owned warehouse and office building doesn’t need to rezone the property. However, the county appears caught in a Catch-22.

Under the contract, the project won’t really be a county building until after it obtains a certificate of occupancy. A CO can’t be obtained if the project is not zoned properly.

So what the law does or doesn’t say about a county building being allowed to operate a warehouse on this portion of Sunrise doesn’t seem to matter.

Also, it is not known if Sunrise’s city commission will oppose having the elections HQ.  The city would be taking a valuable piece of property, just off University Drive along West Oakland Park Boulevard, off the tax rolls.

Commissioner Tim Ryan, the swing vote last Tuesday to approve the purchase, is not optimistic.

“Sunrise has been combative with us lately,” Ryan says. “I’m not sure that this will get approved there.”

     More Trouble For Project

A second string that is attached to the HQ comes from Ryan.

Noting the property is mired in litigation over its ownership, Ryan says he wants the lawsuit settled before he votes on it again.  It is due to come back to the commission when the contract is finalized.

“There is no way I want to buy that building until that litigation is over,” Ryan says.

Since the vote was 5-4, if Ryan switches his position the deal is off.

Also, the price of the building is squishy.

According to government records, the property was listed for sale at $6.5 to 7 million before it was foreclosed.  The final judgment on the 2010 foreclosure was $10.2 million.

It was assessed at $11.4 million in 2012 (The owners are contesting that assessment at the Value Adjustment Board.).  It is assessed for 2013 at $10.8 million.

County staff told commissioners this week that the price tag for the property and new building is $15 million.

The rough breakdown of that $15 million is this: The old BJ’s and the land is valued at $11 million, with $4 million left over for the renovations.

“I have my doubts that the renovation can be done for $4 million,” Ryan says.

Bottom line:  This deal ain’t done.

The county has been trying unsuccessfully to get a new elections HQ built since 2002.

Commissioners hope to have the HQ at BJ’s open by the 2016 election. Don’t hold your breath.



11 Responses to “Election HQ Deal Remains Up In The Air”

  1. Ha Ha Ha says:

    Sunrise has Sawgrass Mills and lots of other commercial property. The BJ’s site has very little effect on Sunrise’s rather healthy portfolio of taxable commercial property.

    The county could use eminent domain to take the property away from Sunrise anytime it feels like doing so, no problem.

    The Sunrise commissioners will likely appreciate having Elections HQ locally, both for its quality of attracting visitors from all over the county (good news for Sunrise stores & restaurants!!) and for the easy access to their own election results.

    Mayor Ryan, let’s have a motion please to welcome the Supervisor of Elections to Sunrise!!


    Eminent domain is a lengthy process which would end up costing the county more money.

    Sunrise has commercial development in the surrounding area. What the city really could use is a Class A office building at that location. A warehouse is not a good or maximum use of the land. It amounts to spot zoning — a warehouse amid other commercial development.

    As far as attracting folks to Sunrise, who visits the election HQ? Really very few other than maybe candidates. You can register to vote by mail. Even if you go there to register, that is one visit in a lifetime.

    Spreading major county functions all over the county makes little sense. I thought the county wanted to keep everything in downtown so that it would provide customers for future mass transit.

  2. Real Deal says:

    In the late 1990s the top things to do in Broward County were airport expansion, mass transit, economic development, convention center hotel, among other minor issues including finding a new home for the Supervisor of Elections.

    Years later we struggle with the very same problems. So much for Broward County being a progressive community.

    The reason is simple. We have outgrown our systems of government. Broward County refuses to grow up and that unwillingness to evolve keeps this community from smashing down the barriers that prevent us from enjoying a better future.

  3. Broward Democrat says:

    They want to hide the Supervisor of Elections Facility in the back of another shopping plaza behind a Chuck-E-Cheese and a check cashing store? I expect this kind of disregard for this important elected office from the Governor of Florida, but not the County Commission. Especially after the last election.

  4. Ha Ha Ha says:

    Yes, eminent domain takes longer, but it’s an effective way to take the property if Sunrise won’t act quickly enough.

    Look at the northeast corner of the Oakland Park and University intersection, just east of the Wal-Mart. Mondo Class A office space already for anyone who wants to occupy it (& reduce the vacancy rate). Sunrise doesn’t need to drop a big white elephant of another Class A office building there – that would only further aggravate the vacancy rate.

    Who visits the elections HQ? Candidates, campaign treasurers, PACs, people who want to register to vote, change parties, or request public records, and lots and lots of voters – remember the very heavy early voting at all Supervisor of Elections offices only a few months ago?

    Spreading major county functions all over the county is the best possible policy, since the need for county functions is widely distributed. Downtown Fort Lauderdale is the worst possible place for major county functions because it is heavily overbuilt and highly congested. Where a county function cannot be distributed via satellite offices and must be centralized, the best place to locate that function is at or near the geographical center of Broward County, in order to minimize travel costs for residents regardless of where within Broward County they happen to live.

  5. Ha Ha Ha says:

    @3 – signs will obviously be posted. People have no trouble finding the West Regional Library, which is similarly located and has traffic signage posted on Broward Blvd indicating exactly where to turn in order to get to the library.

  6. tell the truth says:

    @HaHaHa and to Buddy’s comments

    you do NOT have to GO to the SOE office to register to vote…I thought you could do that at drivers license office…? no more? what about the hundreds of thousands of dollars the SOE spends every year on VOTER OUTREACH? isn’t that the same as signing up voters? years ago people feared jury duty by registering to vote, not knowing pool is from Drivers licenses, right?
    if we were Progressive Dems like in region we would VOTE BY MAIL. lots of big bucks saved on bricks and mortar.
    sunrise doesn’t need SOE and theres no way it’ll be up and running at ANY location by Aug 2016 primary and Nov 2016 big election for prez
    they change their minds on the dais like we change our socks, and that was before Term Limits
    had snipes not wanted a TajMahal at Broward and I-95 to line the 2 developers pockets, and fll city tax base, it would have been built by now.
    on Tri-rail route, close to bus route, etc., etc. their ombined greed got the btter of them – the developers, the city, snipes and others.

  7. Alice McGill says:

    So glad Tim Ryan who represents Dania Beach was the swing vote. He knows Walter Duke, the mayor of Dania Beach, who is married to Lisa Duke, the campaign manager for several candidates in Dania Beach elections including sitting commissioner Bobbie Grace and the aforementioned Walter Duke. Lisa is known for handing in absentee ballots from dead persons and felons. She has had hard working volunteers “review” absentee ballots at the headquarters of Ms. Grace on NW 12 Avenue before either mailing or handing in the ballots. If Ms. Duke forgets the address of the new SOE facility, she can just call Tim Ryan.

  8. Your Pal Al Lameberti says:

    If they would stop stealing, there would be money for this.

  9. David Greene says:

    Looks Like Judy Stern is hard at work commenting all over Buddy’s blog this weekend. I read the backup and this whole thing smell fishy, but it should be no surprise that everyone whose elections Stern handled supported the flawed site. Another example of failed ethics in our community. Buddy you should look into ethics violations on this one.

  10. Alice in Wonderland says:

    Put four head of cattle claim it agricultural asphalt, get Lori Cohen involved

  11. Duke says:

    Buddy is absolutely right on this. That Sunrise location needs to be a nice office building. Plenty of doctors, lawyers and accountants would do well there. Keep the Elections Supervisor’s Office downtown, where it should be. I know the last thing in the world people wanna hear is how they do it in other places, but only in Broward County could a top 10 grossing arena go out in the burbs across the street from an already # 2 tourist attraction in Florida while a great piece of land downtown on the River goes into foreclosure. Lets not make the same mistake with this new building. Put it downtown where it belongs.