By Jane Smith
Boynton Beach wants a circuit court judge to declare the city has met its obligations to the private developer in the city’s public/private Town Square development project, according to a Nov. 19 lawsuit.
At issue are three items the developer disputes: natural gas lines the city says it has supplied to each of the three parcels, geotechnical reports the city says it has made available saying each parcel is cleared and ready to be developed, and verification that contractors for the public portion of the project have removed their equipment and materials from each parcel.
The items are part of the March 19, 2018, developer’s agreement the city made with John Markey, principal of JKM Developers. Markey plans to build mixed-used residential buildings with retail and restaurants on the ground floor. He has agreed to set aside public parking spaces in two garages.
By affirming the city has met its obligation, the suit claims Markey has not upheld his part of the contract, which gave him 18 months to finish one parking garage and 24 months to finish the other.
At the Nov. 4 commission meeting, City Attorney James Cherof told the commission that lawyers for both the city and Markey were going to maintain their positions on the stalemate and it was time for a judge to say which party was correct. The commission then agreed to file the lawsuit, estimated to cost $10,000 to $20,000 to initiate.
JKM has until Dec. 31 to respond to the suit.
JKM gave no definitive deadline in the contract for the construction of the two garages the city needs for staff and public parking, Cherof said. Boynton Beach’s combination City Hall and Public Library building was finished in July and officials hoped to have at least one of the parking garages completed when it opened to the public.
“The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on construction debt lending are unknown and indeterminate in nature,” Markey wrote in an Oct. 2 letter to the city. Boynton Beach, like other cities around the country, temporarily shut down in mid-March in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, a respiratory infection that can be fatal.
Markey added that he hoped to get financing in the first quarter of 2021.
Cherof, though, called that statement “wishful thinking” at the Nov. 4 meeting.
“It’s not anything you can hang your hat on,” he said. Cherof referred commissioners to a Dec. 17, 2019, letter sent by the city to JKM, saying the city had met its obligations.
But JKM's attorney wrote the city on Oct. 2 saying the city's obligations had not yet been met.
The city gave JKM three parcels that total about 8.6 acres, $1.9 million in cash and new water and sewer lines and underground utilities at no cost in its Town Square project.
Town Square is a private-public partnership between the city and its Community Redevelopment Agency and private developers. The 16.5-acre area sits between Boynton Beach Boulevard and Southeast Second Avenue.
When complete, the $250 million Town Square will have a mix of municipal buildings and privately developed apartment buildings, a hotel, restaurants and shops. The city’s share is slightly more than $118 million.
The south garage was supposed to be finished by June 5, 2021, Colin Groff, assistant city manager, said in July. The north garage was to be finished by Dec. 5, 2021.
“The timelines are completely gone,” Markey said at the time. Ú