At the October 8, 2019 Board of County Commissioners meeting, the commission did not vote on the ground lease agreement with Tampa Bay Extreme Adventure Course. The applicant, Paul Kent will review the options suggested at the meeting.
Kent, described himself as “the person in charge” of the Tampa Bay Extreme Adventure Course or TBEAC. Kent’s company reopened the former TreeUMPH! Park in April of 2019.
The initial plan was a 5 year lease with two 5 year options, with the option to negotiate a purchase of the land, which was stated is more likely a goal of the establishment.
The initial proposal for the property lease was:
Year 1: $12,000
Year 2: $24,000
Year 3: $24,000
Year 4: $24,000
Year 5: 5% over year 4, and subsequent incremental increases every year.
Kent stated that he was “excited about the agreement” and added that TBEAC’s obligation would result in a more affordable cost structure to visitors of the park, which is a potential contribution to its success.
Commissioner John Allocco expressed concern about the lease agreement; “I thought the goal was that we wanted this to get out of the hands of the county, and into the private sector.”
Kent stated that he would rather operate on owned land versus leased land or private-public agreements, based on his other establishments in Arizona and New Jersey.
Allocco asked if the lease agreement was necessary. Kent answered, “We need to make sure we’re at a sustainable revenue model to make it (worth buying the property) … if it takes us five more years to get to that point, then I’m ok with that.”
Commissioner Steve Champion cautioned Kent, “We’re all business people (on the commission) … the problem is that doesn’t even pay the taxes on this property. What incentive would you have to buy it? I’m okay with a year or two … but we want you to buy the property, we want you to pay taxes on it. The problem is you’re not paying taxes on it, you’re going to pay (the county) $1000.00 a month. That’s just not fair to the taxpayers. It’s just not a responsible thing to do.”
Champion added that the 36-acre property couldn’t be rented at $1000 a month “to put cows on.”
Pianta countered, “We know what didn’t work, so taking this parcel that we have invested in, and we’ve got a company that is bringing us tourists, and bringing us an adventure theme to our ‘Adventure Coast’ … I believe in this company. I believe their goal is to buy the land.” She went on to include the investors in the company and express their concerns, previously stated by Kent.
Champion maintained that he is in favor of selling the property entirely, skeptical that any company would purchase the property when they could lease for $1000 a month.
Commissioner John Mitten said, “There are several dynamics; there’s a tourism dynamic, there’s an economic development dynamic, there’s a historic dynamic and then there is a tax dynamic…” Mitten also expressed concern for the potential long-term lease versus purchase, and said he would like to see an escalation of terms on years four and five at the least.
Champion concurred that the escalation of terms would be an incentive to purchase.
“We definitely want you to succeed in Hernando County. We think you’re an asset to Hernando County, but I would like to… see the decision tree go faster. We don’t want to own (the property.)”
Kent said that initially there was a price stated in the agreement, however, given the timeframe, there was no way to know what the property would be valued at in five years, so it was removed.