By Steve Plunkett

    Developer GL Homes, which out of the blue offered $73 million last fall to purchase the city’s western golf course, was the winning bidder Oct. 24 to perhaps seal the deal.
    City Council members, clearly unhappy that GL reduced its offer to $65 million, nevertheless chose the builder over rival Lennar LLC, which was willing to pay $73 million minus contingencies that could have cut the price by unknown millions.
    “We are risk-averse as a municipality,” Mayor Susan Haynie said. “I understand that most developers are risk-averse as well.”
    Larry Portnoy, a GL Homes vice president, said his company revised its offer after learning that the golf course, beyond the city limits on Glades Road just west of Florida’s Turnpike, was only 188 acres, not the 194 acres GL thought. The company also didn’t know about a 300-foot restrictive covenant from a neighboring subdivision that would slice 15 more acres off any redevelopment, he said.
    Worse, Portnoy said, were changes this summer by the Army Corps of Engineers regarding wetlands and a new interpretation by Palm Beach County officials of rules for workforce housing. He could not predict how the changes might limit building on the golf course.
    Lennar also had no predictions but made its offer contingent on Boca Raton’s paying any costs for workforce housing requirements and any amount over $500,000 for environmental remediation. It also was contingent on the county’s granting development approvals. Deputy City Manager George Brown said there was no way to estimate those reductions beforehand.
    Most members of the public had left the meeting by the time public comment started about 10:45 p.m., and no one spoke for or against.
    Robert Weinroth was the first City Council member to chastise GL Homes’ lowered price, noting the builder was “not new to the game.”
    “I can’t accept the fact that the changing conditions that you saw from the original offer caused a $13 million haircut,” Weinroth said. “Can’t you do better?”
    GL Homes began the evening offering $60 million for the golf course. Under special procedures the council set up, bidders were allowed to raise their offers as many times as they wanted. GL rose to $65 million but cut its nonrefundable deposit in half, to $2 million; Lennar, whose nonrefundable deposit would have been $100,000, did not budge.
    Deputy Mayor Jeremy Rodgers said he was not happy with either offer. “I think no-sell is still a viable alternative,” Rodgers said, holding out hope that GL will sweeten the offer before the council makes the deal official this month.
    Meanwhile, the Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District is pursuing its plan to buy the private Ocean Breeze golf course in the north end of the city from Lennar for $24 million.
    The city agreed in September to issue municipal bonds to cover the purchase and let the district repay the money.

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