tampabay.com

Briny Breezes' windfall may slip away with deal

The contract dangled million-dollar profits in front of mobile home owners if they sold.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published July 31, 2007


BRINY BREEZES - The would-be millionaires of Briny Breezes mobile home park may have lost their big payday.

The town grabbed headlines in January when the owners of its 488 trailers nestled along the Atlantic Ocean overwhelmingly approved the sale of their community to Boca Raton's Ocean Land Investments for more than $510-million.

Nearly all the owners would have made more than $1-million, a tidy profit considering some bought their properties a decade ago for less than $40,000.

But Ocean Land now says the contract is kaput after the town's board of directors refused to extend an August deadline for the company to review plans to convert Briny Breezes into a wealthier community.

Logan Pierson, Ocean Land's vice president of acquisitions, said the extension would have allowed the company to confer with neighboring communities. "We've already spent about $5-million," Pierson said Monday.

"Frankly, if you were in our office today, it looks like there's a funeral."

Palm Beach County officials and area town leaders had raised concerns about such a high-density development coming into the already cluttered coastline about 60 miles north of Miami.

Ocean Land had planned to build about 2,000 multimillion-dollar condo units, a high-end marina and a 300-room luxury hotel. The company later scaled back its plan to just about 900 condo units along with the marina and hotel.

Briny Breezes, a 43-acre down-market relic of old Florida, is run as a corporation by a board of directors. The residents own shares based on the size and location of their lot.

The decision to sell divided the town, with some residents saying paradise can't be bought. But it was approved by about 80 percent of its shareholders.

Still, the deal may not be dead, Pierson and the town's mayor said.

"I don't think it's dead in the water," Mayor Roger Bennett said.