ALACHUA Co., Fla., (WCJB) ---- UPDATE 02/15/19: A concern about fairness led Alachua County commissioner to decide to place Camp McConnell back on the market.
Majority vote ruled that Camp McConnell is to be opened for sale negotiations to give all parties interested a fair shot. This comes after county commissioners voted 3-2 to sell the land to BaseCamp Ventures, a non-profit group, earlier this week.
"I voted for BaseCamp Ventures in the beginning because I realized that we were on a timeframe in terms that we make sure that get somebody in there to start a summer camp, and that group was the one that we were most familiar with," stated Marihelen Wheeler, county commissioner.
Wheeler said that she realized that the process wasn't fair and that commissioners didn't have all the information needed to make a responsible decision.
"The information that we needed that the Chabad group out of Miami that was also interested in the property had not been properly vetted, had not been properly included in all the talks that were going on," stated Wheeler.
Thursday's meeting also weighed in on the ties between Florida Senator Keith Perry who had interest in purchasing Camp McConnell back in 2017 but was denied by the county, and the owner of BaseCamp Ventures Jordan Richmond.
Public records showed that BaseCamp Ventures LLC, owned by Richmond, had used the same address as Perry's roofing company as its mailing address.
Perry says the reason was Richmond came to him for business advice on the process of purchasing Camp McConnell.
“My CPA Jack Sampselle is a CPA that works for me and I loaned him to Jordan Richmond to let him do that initial paperwork. They used my address and my business address at my business for that, I was in Tallahassee at the time. He did that and once he got the paperwork done he reverted that back to Mr. Richmond’s address, his business address," stated Perry.
Jordan Richmond issued a statement to TV20 regarding the decision reversal:
"In looking at the county commissioners vote to reopen the process for taking bids on the Camp McConnell property, while unexpected, we fully understand this decision.
Basecamp Ventures has stated numerous times from the initial purchase by the county that it is amazing what the commissioners have done to protect the property. We continue to believe in the county and the process and look forward to continue working with the commissioners and the county.
We have been intricately involved in this process every step of the way. We have submitted materials every time the county has asked. We made our interest known very clearly from day one. We have attended meetings, tours, and have communicated with staff and commissioners. We have stood proud behind our proposal and have a prestigious and vast gathering of the board, committee members, staff, community organizations, volunteers who have shown support of all kinds.
We are excited to move forward with this process and look forward to a lasting relationship with Alachua County. "
UPDATE: The Alachua County Commission has voted to reopen negotiations for the Camp McConnell property. This decision comes after the county voted earlier in the week to sell the property to Basecamp Ventures.
Commissioner Mike Byerly proposed the motion to reopen the process to allow other interested groups to submit proposals for the site, with a final vote occurring at the Commission's first meeting in April 2019, citing concerns over the fairness of the process.
Alachua County Commissioners voted 3-2 to take Camp McConnell off the market. The county purchased the land in July of 2017 for over 1 million dollars. Officials said when the camp was purchased there was no plan to keep it long term.
Basecamp Ventures, an outdoor education company, made an offer for $500,000 that was accepted by commissioners. A Jewish organization by the name of Chabad of Miami and South Dade was the runner up for the purchase for Camp McConnell and told TV20 that they felt they weren't given a fair shot.
Chabad representatives said they presented to commissioners that they were willing to pay $770,000 for the land. Commissioner Mike Byerly expressed that the process could have been handled better.
"We dropped the ball, Alachua County, we dropped the ball, we didn’t handle this well and we didn’t have a process that allowed for a wide response that would give us and the public options," stated Byerly.