Palm Beach County Commissioners consider sale and lease options for vacant land

Contact 5 follow-up

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - County officials and viewers are already responding to Wednesday night's Contact 5 Investigation that exposed millions of your tax dollars being spent on empty government buildings in the South Florida area.

The watch the original investigation, click here. 

The Contact 5 Investigators have received dozens of emails and phone calls in just the past few hours from viewers who are angry about how their tax dollars are being spent.

Plus, the Chair of the Palm Beach County Commission is speaking out about the expenses.

Palm Beach County owns more than 100 vacant buildings and empty properties.  It spends $50,000 a year just to trim its vacant properties.  That's on top of the $600,000 it has spent on a mostly empty building near the airport and about another $2 million to maintain Mecca Farms.  It's a huge chunk of land in The Acreage.

"It's not cheap, it's very expensive," said Palm Beach County Commission Chair Shelley Vana. 

Vana said she has considered cutting costs before but the county is holding on to most of the properties for future use.  She said the others have been difficult to unload due to the economy.

"Our constituents, I think, want to know we're not going to sell at a tremendous loss," said Vana.

To consider possible gains, the commission has met with Christina Morrison of the Realtors Commercial Alliance.

"All we're asking them to do is to take a fresh look at property that they've been assembling for years and if there's any of it that can be liquidated or leased or whatever until they're ready to use it, let's get busy," said Morrison.

Vana said the commission is interested.  "They said ‘Can we help, can we take a look and talk to you about this' and we said ‘yes, we'd certainly be interested,' " Vana said.

But if the county can move forward with any sale or lease options, Vana said it has to be good for the taxpayers and the county in the long run.

"There's obviously constraints on how we'd be able to do things," Vana said.  "We wouldn't be able to do it as a normal private purchase and sale but if you see something you think that we need to look at, we're certainly happy to look at that," she said. 

Morrison said the county should consider leasing land to farmers or having tenants move in to empty buildings and lease them until the county can use them.

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