By Joe Capozzi
“Thanks, but no thanks,” summed up the reaction of residents in Briny Breezes to the latest offer by a developer to purchase their seaside mobile home community.
“This place is irreplaceable,’’ resident Mary Wilson said April 19 at a shareholders meeting called to discuss the unsolicited offer. “I don’t think Briny should be for sale ever.’’
After Wilson and 30 or so others spoke at the meeting, attended by more than 100 shareholders at the Briny Breezes Community Center and another 75 people on Zoom, the
Briny Breezes corporate board unanimously rejected the $502.5 million offer to purchase the 43-acre town, as first reported by The Coastal Star.
The developer was not identified at the 75-minute board meeting, but sources told The Coastal Star the offer came from the Kolter Group, a developer based in Delray Beach.
Messages to a company official were not returned.
More than 100 Briny Breezes shareholders attended in person — and another 75 joined via Zoom — as the corporate board on April 19 discussed and rejected an unsolicited offer to buy the entire community.
Michael Gallacher, general manager of Briny Breezes Inc., said the developer did not tell corporation board members what it planned to do with the town if the board approved the purchase.
Board members said the latest offer — for $502,496,000 — was “unattractive” because it was too low and had too many unfavorable tax consequences but, perhaps most important, a majority of shareholders were not interested in selling their patch of paradise.
The last serious bid to purchase Briny, in 2007, came from a Boca Raton developer who offered $510 million before backing out of the deal. Since then, land values have increased to at least $1 billion, Briny corporate officials said.
“I think the public needs to realize that this offer is ridiculous and the more that gets out into the public, maybe we’ll get a billion-dollar offer,’’ said board member Cindy Holbrook.
Many speakers expressed disappointment that the board was even considering the offer, pointing out that a majority of shareholders in February said they had no interest in selling the town.
Board members acknowledged that point, but said the board nonetheless had an obligation to bring the offer to the shareholders.
“I don’t believe any of us thinks this deal is a good deal for any of us,’’ board member Holly Reitnauer said. “But we are just telling you guys to let you know that we got this offer, and that’s all there is to it. Period. Case closed. It does not mean we are selling Briny.’’
Briny Breezes is owned by a corporation whose stockholders are the only property owners.
Although a corporate board manages the mobile home park, the town of Briny Breezes is governed by a Town Council that provides basic municipal services in conjunction with the corporation.
Town property owners hold corporate shares. Shares are determined by the size of the property owned. Any sale of the park would have to be approved by the corporation owners representing 67% of the town’s 488 units.
The risks of paradise
Briny Breezes, one of the last seaside mobile home communities in Florida, faces climate-change challenges because it’s located between the Atlantic Ocean and Intracoastal Waterway.
The town, which already experiences chronic flooding on the Intracoastal side during storms, is planning for millions of dollars in resiliency improvements to protect it from future sea-level rise.
But some residents wonder whether that will be enough and if the town’s days are numbered even if its sea walls, roads and homes are raised.
A letter from corporate officials to shareholders on April 11 said an Ocean Ridge man representing a large developer recently expressed interest in buying the town’s marina.
While some shareholders said it may make sense to put Briny Breezes on the market to see what kind of offers might come in, many others said there is no price tag for their special town.
“The big question of the day really is, what is your cost for paradise?’’ asked resident Chuck Swift. “Without question Briny Breezes is unduplicable. There is only one on the entire planet that has everything: the beach, a clubhouse, a marina, a lifestyle that millionaires — our neighbors — are paying multi-, multi-, multimillions for their residences. We’ve got it right here in Briny.’’
Publisher Jerry Lower contributed to this story. Lower and Editor Mary Kate Leming are shareholders in Briny Breezes.