By Joe Capozzi
Developer William Swaim has offered to sell 3.3 acres of submerged land to Ocean Ridge, part of a proposal he says will allow him and the town to “put down their swords’’ and end years of litigation.
Town officials apparently are not interested. Now, Swaim said he won’t rule out suing the town to recoup the land’s market value.
In a June 15 letter to the town, an attorney for Swaim’s Waterfront ICW Properties said his client would sell the land to the town for $750,000, “a steep discount” from its fair market value of $4.8 million.
The 3.3 acres is adjacent to a 9-acre submerged tract that the town purchased in April for $1.5 million as part of a plan to rezone the area from residential to conservation/preservation and open the area for recreation.
But Swaim’s offer has several conditions. Among them: The town must transfer the 3.3 acres’ density rights (14 units) to another site in Ocean Ridge, identified by Waterfront at a later date. It also calls for the town to issue a one-time “height restriction waiver” on the property identified by Waterfront at a later date.
“The goal here is for Waterfront and the town to put down their swords and work together to consummate a transaction that results in an ideal outcome for both sides,’’ Waterfront attorney Michael Nullman said in the letter.
“We see this framework as a mutually beneficial opportunity for both Waterfront and the town, which has the added benefit of resolving all pending issues and disputes pending between Waterfront and the town.’’
The letter asked the town to respond in 15 days. That never happened, prompting Nullman to address town commissioners during public comments July 5 “to follow up to ensure everyone had a chance to review that and if anyone had any questions.’’
No one on the dais had any questions and the offer was not discussed.
A week later, Town Attorney Christy Goddeau told The Coastal Star she was “not aware of any direction to respond to the letter or place it on an upcoming meeting agenda. Since the letter is related to the settlement of potential, and certainly threatened, litigation, no further comment is provided at this time.’’
Swaim told The Coastal Star he was surprised by the lack of response.
“In 35 years of development in South Florida, I’ve never seen a town stick their head in the sand like this town has. They refuse to meet, refuse to discuss anything, do not communicate at all. Zero. Nothing,’’ he said. “We get crickets. That’s why Michael went to the meeting, because nobody is responding.’’
The conditions in his proposal, Swaim said, are only fair since he would be giving up plans to develop the 3.3 acres. He said he does not own any other land in Ocean Ridge. And if the town approved the proposal, he said, any height restriction waiver would be compatible with surrounding properties.
“I doubt seriously it will ever be used, but it’s another right we would have,’’ he said.
“To be honest with you, I thought this was a gift,’’ he said. “It’s everything they want and I’m just trying to get out even.’’
Swaim has been fighting with the town for years over his efforts to build a road and develop the 3.3 acres in the lagoon. In July 2021, Waterfront ICW Properties sued the town in U.S. District Court alleging a claim for inverse condemnation and $10 million in damages. The suit was dismissed without prejudice six months later.
If the town doesn’t approve his latest proposal, Swaim said, refiling the federal lawsuit “will end up happening and they will have to pay full retail in the courts.’’