The CRA withdraws its offer for “Clark’s Corner” and balks at the environmental study

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Plans to create a “walkway” sign and landscaping on a parcel at the intersection of SR 60 and West Central Avenue are on hold after a preliminary environmental inspection revealed evidence of contamination potential on the site.

The plot, known locally as “Clark’s Corner”, was once a gas station. The Community Redevelopment Agency had previously agreed to buy the site for $60,000, but questions about the deal were raised in an article on LakeWalesNews.net, which may have led to further scrutiny of the purchase.

The property’s Phase 1 study, carried out by consultancy firm Cardno, found evidence of vent pipes normally associated with underground storage tanks, which were the cause of groundwater contamination at several hundred sites. across Florida. Mitigation often requires many years and thousands of dollars.

Given the possibility of proceeding with a phase two study, which would include drilling shallow wells and analyzing soil samples, the council balked at the cost of $25,250. This expense would have been added to the initial purchase cost, a fact cited by Commissioner Terrye Howell when asked about the deal.

During the discussion, City Attorney Chuck Galloway stressed that the purchase would meet “the legitimate pursuit of slums and scourge”. If purchased, the city would also have incurred the cost of removing the existing dilapidated structure.

While acknowledging that the site is an ideal location for beautification and welcoming signage, the City Commissioners, sitting on the ARC Board of Directors, ultimately agreed with Chairman Robin Gibson that it is the vendor’s responsibility to determine if there is contamination.

“It’s the perfect spot (for a catwalk sign) but we can’t be silly about it,” Gibson told the board. “We are not the owner.”

The small parcel sits at the strategic intersection of SR 60 and West Central Avenue. City commissioners and staff have long cited this location as the ideal location for a welcoming “gateway” to the city.

Current owner JAK Rentals, LLC purchased the property in January for $40,000. It has an assessed value of $408, according to the Polk County real estate appraiser, with a construction value of $308 and a land value of $100. The triangular lot is just over 6,000 square feet, or 0.14 acres, and less than 100 feet wide.

Development Services Manager Mark Bennett says the property is too small to meet setback, parking or stormwater requirements, meaning it has no value as a building plot .

If contamination does exist at the site, it would likely result in a negative market value, meaning the cost of mitigation would far exceed the value of the land.

“The visible features are consistent with the subject property’s historic use as an auto repair and gasoline retail facility,” Cardno said in its report to CRA. “These features included potential underground storage tank (UST) vent pipes and remnants of a hydraulic lifting system in the on-site structure. Historic land use provides potential for impacts from petroleum, solvents and metals on soil and groundwater.”

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