By Tim O’Meilia

    Five years ago, a developer figured the homey oceanfront mobile home park of Briny Breezes was worth half a billion dollars if it were decorated with high rise condominium towers, a pricey hotel and several hundred time-shares.
    He was wrong. Ocean Land Investments, the Boca Raton developer, couldn’t convince anyone beyond the town limits of that vision and the deal crashed, leaving unhappy residents, strained friendships and relieved municipal neighbors.
    Now the jilted runner-up in the Briny courtship is back in town, but without a glittering $500 million offer to dangle in front of mobile home residents.
    This time, New York-based Kean Development Co. wants to see what the Briny dowry will be worth in two or three years before the price is settled. Kean wants to spend several years and hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own getting all the zoning and development approvals in place before an array of appraisals determine the sale price.


 7960374679?profile=originalDeveloper John C. Kean answers questions during a March 16 presentation in the Briny Breezes auditorium.  Watching is Joe Aronica of Duane Morris, the law firm retained by the mobile home park to pursue a sale of the property.  
Jerry Lower/The Coastal Star


   “That might not be what it was five years ago but it will be more than it is today,” John  C. Kean told a March 16 gathering of 100 or so residents eager to hear his plan.
    Judging from the reaction of many, a proposal without a firm price tag attached may be a tough sell.
    “You’re not giving us anything financially. We’re in limbo,” said resident Lee Moran.
    “Why the heck, if someone’s sniffing around here, why don’t they take the risk themselves of getting the zoning (later),” said Sue Alter.
“The concept has merit — to see what the value of the place is,” said Steve French. “But what if we don’t like the average of the appraisals?”
    Kean made it clear he isn’t going to take Ocean Land’s approach of making an offer then trying to obtain the zoning to make it profitable.
    “We’re not going to get involved in this if Briny can turn around and say no,” Kean said. The appraisals would come from firms agreed to by both sides. “Ultimately, you’re deciding that Briny is eventually going to sell.”
    Of the four developers who made serious proposals six years ago, Kean and Ocean Land were the finalists. After the lengthy interview process, Kean said he told his development team he thought they had hit a home run.
    But Ocean Land bumped up their offer by several million and won the day. “Basically, we won the hearts of the people of Briny Breezes but not their pocketbooks,” he said.
    The loss turned out to be in Kean’s favor.
Not only was it difficult for Ocean Land to obtain development approvals, but the bottom fell out of the real estate market. “It was very fortunate for us that we didn’t get involved in Briny Breezes,” he said.

Proposal a first for Kean
    Kean Development has built residential and commercial buildings in New York, Long Island and some in Florida, but “nothing like this,” Kean admitted.
    He showed renderings of what he proposed six years ago, saying the climate is better for obtaining permits now because politicians are eager to kick-start new construction.
    On the Intracoastal Waterway side of State Road A1A, Kean planned several sets of three-story townhomes, offices, some stores and a parking garage. On the ocean side, the plan called for residential towers going from seven stories near the street to higher near the beach. A hotel with underground parking would be the centerpiece.
    He didn’t want the renderings of the towers photographed. “The towers are going to scare the heck out of your neighbors,” he said.
    Some residents said that decision is all the more difficult because the corporation that owns the park (residents are shareholders in the corporation) is only now determining what road, seawall, sewage and recreational improvements need to be made to the park if it isn’t sold.
    “How can we decide without knowing what we have to do to Briny?” said Eileen Duffy. “By hiring you to do the zoning, we’re also saying yes to selling Briny.”
    And some are no more interested in selling now than they were six years ago. “Take one step now and Briny is gone forever,” said Lee Godby. “I do not believe Briny is a relic of the past. Briny is the future.”
    Longtime sale opponent Tom Byrne agreed. “This is an exciting proposal. But it’s just as exciting to me to sit on my porch and watch the sun go down.”       


Proposal details
    • If approved by the board of directors, shareholders would vote whether to negotiate with Kean Development.
    • The proposal would call for Kean to pay the cost of obtaining zoning and development approvals, a two- to three-year process.
    • To be negotiated:  how three or more appraisals would be obtained and a method agreed upon to determine fair market value of Briny. Kean would buy Briny.
    • To be negotiated: whether Briny could cancel the sale after the appraisals and repay Kean for rezoning costs.
    • Shareholders would vote on the negotiated agreement (67 percent approval needed).

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