Pipes sit on the lot where city officials planned to build a city hall complex. [ WENDY WEITZEL | THE STAR ]
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City, St. Joe Company near finalized deal for city hall land swap

Years after the City of Port St. Joe first purchased a lot from the St. Joe Company to house their new city hall complex, the two parties are nearing a completed agreement to swap that lot for another in town after significant contamination was discovered on the original property last year.

At the city commissioners’ June 6 meeting, City Attorney Clayton McCahill informed the commissioners that an agreement had been drafted between the city and the St. Joe Company and that he recommended only one change be made before the agreement was signed.

“It’s pretty much identical to the agreement that we just entered into for the first parcel,” said McCahill. “There’s just a few little changes that I’d like to make.They’re not huge.”

“If there’s something that comes back that says that this property has got problems like the other one, I want to be able to nix the deal. I want to be able to have our out.”

The commissioners voted unanimously to approve the land swap agreement contingent on the change recommended by McCahill. Commissioner Scott Hoffman was absent from the meeting and therefore did not vote on the matter.

The original lot, located at David Langston Drive and Avenue A, will be returned to the custody of the St. Joe Company.

A large portion of that land, purchased from the St. Joe Company for $320,000 in 2020, is contaminated — a fact which was not disclosed to the city at the sale and which rendered the lot unfit to house the planned facility in its current state.

The new lot, located at Garrison Avenue and Highway 71, is currently being leased.

City commissioners vocalized that they wished to allow the current renter to extend their lease on the property, which expires in March, 2024, while they seek funding to build the city hall complex.

Groups eye contaminated lot for community projects

The Avenue A lot would return to the custody of the St. Joe Company, where other organizations have already set their sights on it.

At the Nov. 15, 2022, meeting, Cheryl Steindorf, the President of the Pioneer Bay Community Development Corporation, a non profit organization helping to spur redevelopment in North Port St. Joe, approached the podium to gauge the commissioners’ support for her organization’s plan for the land.

The lot used to house a baseball field, which produced several of Port St. Joe’s biggest names. The PBCDC say it’s a legacy they want to see honored.

“We’d like to experiment with a small part of the space and have some portable seating and activities for children to see how the community would use the space,” Steindorf said. “We’d like to come back to you with a formal proposal, after monitoring the activity for a couple of months, and an opportunity to unite the placemaking theories with the Master Plan. We’d appreciate you giving us an opportunity to explore how human infrastructure can move interest in investment in MLK.”

The commissioners expressed they would gladly consider writing a letter of support for the project, so long as the land is deemed fit to house these facilities.

As planned, the new city hall complex will also include a new fire station and police station for the city.

The city has gone out for grant funding for the project, which is estimated to cost $11 million in total when completed.

To build just a new city hall, which officials believe will be the first structure of the new complex to be completed, will cost  $3.5 million as of the 2020 estimate, which may have changed.

Meet the Editor

Wendy Weitzel, The Star’s digital editor, joined the news outlet in August 2021, as a reporter covering primarily Gulf County.

Prior to then, she interned for Oklahoma-based news wire service Gaylord News and for Oklahoma City-based online newspaper NonDoc.com during her four years at the University of Oklahoma, from which she graduated in May with degrees in online journalism and political science.

While at OU, Weitzel was selected as Carnegie-Knight News21 Investigative Fellow among 30 top journalism students from around the country. She also was senior editor managing a 12-person newsroom in coordination with Oklahoma Watch, a non-profit news organization in eastern Oklahoma.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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