Okee-Tantie proposals available online

OKEECHOBEE — Proposals from Guy Harvey Outposts and Bass Pro Shops for the redevelopment of the Okee-Tantie Recreation Area were opened at the May 25 meeting of the Okeechobee County Commission.

The two proposals, which were not discussed at the meeting, are now available for view online.

The next step is for the proposals to be reviewed by an advisory committee, who will make recommendations to the Okeechobee County Commission. The county commissioners will make the final decision on which proposal to pursue.

At the May 11 Okeechobee County Commission meeting, each county commissioner nominated one person to serve on the advisory committee.

Those appointed are Eddie Lehman, John Campbell, Don Fox, Frank Irby and Wes Williamson.

County administrator Robbie Chartier will act as the coordinator.

Request for proposals

The county’s request for proposals states:

“Okeechobee County Board of Commissioners is seeking proposals for the acquisition and redevelopment (the “Project”) of an approximately 99-acre site physically located at 10430 W. Hwy. 78, Okeechobee, FL (the “Site”).

Each party that submits a response (“Proposal”) to this Request for Proposals (“RFP”) is referred to herein as a “Respondent,” and the Respondent that is conditionally designated through this RFP process is referred to herein as the “Designated Developer.”

The site was formerly Okee-Tantie Campground and Marina. The purpose of this RFP is to solicit for the re-development of Okee-Tantie through a sale or combination purchase and/or long-term lease agreements for all or parts of the 99 acre site. The County is seeking Proposals that offer the greatest opportunity for the highest and best use of Okee-Tantie at the highest benefit to the County, as more specifically defined within this proposal.

“The County is seeking a specific project model that it believes will provide for the highest and best use of the property as a destination resort, RV Park, marina, and campground, which affords the eventual developer an acceptable return on its investment to facilitate a successful redevelopment project. In addition, the County desires to retain areas open to the general public through a lease management agreement, including boat slips/marina, boat ramps, band shell (on-site or relocated off-site), airboat ramp and parking area and law enforcement Search and Rescue patrol access.”

Guy Harvey Outpost

A 203-page proposal from Guy Harvey Outpost includes information on the company and their other properties as well as plans for Okee-Tantie.

“A distinctive “Sense of Place” is a community’s most important determinant to economic sustainability. The Lake Okeechobee community is shaped by many. And the many give shape to our project vision – our Sense of Place – so that we may proudly represent and support all who call Lake Okeechobee their home. At Guy Harvey Outpost, we call this THE PERFECT SPOT,” the proposal states.

The Guy Harvey Outpost proposal calls for the project to be built in three phases, with a projected total investment of $19 million.

Phase one would include 19 marina cottages, 22 river cottages and 89 resort RV lots, as well as a clubhouse, pool patio, River Grill restaurant, Angler’s Bar, Discovery Center, a new fuel dock, wet slip renovation at the marina, and an Outfitter Adventure Center. The proposal also calls for upgrades at the C. Scott Driver boat ramps across the highway from Okee-Tantie.

Phase 2 calls for 177 Active Camping RV lots, 10 glamping tents, a Lagoon Beach and a sports club.

Phase 3 includes 93 active camping RV lots, 20 rustic campsites, Discovery Village, wet slip expansion at the marina, Riverside Park, riverside Tiki Bar, a new Scott Driver entrance and a Riverside Park pathway.

Guy Harvey Outpost proposed to purchase the Riverfront parcel for $550,000 and the lake front parcel for $550,000; and lease the area used for the Riverside Park.

The county would construct and maintain an airboat launching area with paved parking and a restroom facility. Guy Harvey Outpost offers to manage the airboat facility and the Scott Driver park for a percentage of user fees collected.

Over 30 years, the proposal estimates the county will collect $17.7 million in taxes on the property and receive $3.7 million in rent.

Bass Pro Shops

The Bass Pro Shops bid is 75 pages in length and includes information about the company and its other resorts.

“We believe that we are the most qualified partner to design, develop and operate a high-quality fishing resort on the most notable bass fishing lake in America. We also feel that the strength of our company and its marketing horse power make us the very best marketing partner to promote this great fishing destination,” stated Johnny Morris, Bass Pro Shops founder in the cover letter.

“As you will see highlighted in this submission, for over 30 years Bass Pro Shops has been sharing outdoor passions through our nature-based Resort Division. From our previous personal visits to this property, as well as the many years spent fishing there, I believe our company is the absolute best long-term partner to develop the amazing lakefront property known as Okee-Tantie.

“We are very passionate and serious about committing to invest our time and resources to develop this property in a first class manner. However, at this time, we are not at all comfortable in committing to submitting detailed plans and specifications which may, or may not in our judgment, need to change or be modified.”

The proposal overview states: “Our vision, as detailed within this document, is to create a nature-based, fishing resort destination that offers all visitors a variety of world-class accommodations, state-of-the-art marina facilities for fishing and boating, and genuine world-class hospitality. With over 40 years of experience in the outdoor industry, we believe our guest service standards, coupled with the appropriate strategic amenities, will produce a vacation experience second to none for guests and sportsmen alike.”

Project goals include:

• To provide responsible stewardship of the Lake Okeechobee site and ensure that one of the country’s premier fishing and recreational areas continues to serve the public through education, recreation and growing guest visitation.

• To develop world class accommodations, amenities and services that are appealing and accessible to a broad base of demographic profiles.
The applicant is willing to pay $300,000 cash for a nine-month option to be applied to a total purchase price of $3 million dollars.

The bid process

According to the staff report, the board received two sealed bids on May 16 for the Okee-Tantie Acquisition and Redevelopment.

Guy Harvey Outpost’s bid was received at 1:47 p.m. Bass Pro’s bid was received at 5:15 p.m. The bid deadline was 3 p.m.

At their May 25 meeting, the commissioners determined it was in the best interest of the county and its residents to accept both responses to the RFP and waive the untimely submission of Bass Pro’s response to the RFP. It is further recommended that the board publicly open the bids.

According to the staff report, legal obligations will only arise upon execution of a formal contract by Okeechobee County and the firm(s) selected by Okeechobee County.

The bids are online on the Okeechobee County website, www.co.okeechobee.fl.us. A link to the complete bids is online on the Okeechobee News website and the Okeechobee News page on Facebook.

Okee-Tantie history

In 1971, the South Florida Water Management District developed the site as the Okee-Tantie Recreation Area with a recreational vehicle park, campground, and bait and tackle shop and marina, and operated it until 1991.

Boat ramp at Okee-Tantie in Okeechobee, 2107.

At that time, the district planned to close the park, but an extensive letter-writing campaign sponsored by the Okeechobee News convinced SFWMD and the county to work out a way keep it open.

Okee-Tantie was conveyed back to the county by SFWMD. The popular RV campground operated at full capacity during the winter months until the hurricanes of 2004 substantially damaged the park. After the hurricanes, part of the park was able to reopen but a large area was heavily damaged and not rehabilitated. Occupancy and revenue began to decline resulting in a decision by the county to close the RV campground and bait and tackle store in October 2012.

Existing covered picnic tables on the Kissimmee River in Okee-Tantie park, Okeechobee.

Okee-Tantie is located inside the Herbert Hoover dike with the Kissimmee River to the west. The original campground had two areas for RVs. The current parking lot has spaces for roughly 100 cars and/or trucks/trailers.

The first time the county sought proposals it was for a lease on the park. Guy Harvey Outpost and Elite Resorts initially proposed a longterm lease, and planned to rent the RV spaces to visitors.

At the June 9, 2016, county commission meeting, Guy Harvey representatives explained that after doing more research into the expense that the renovations will require, including replacing the utility lines, they determined that in order to secure the necessary financing, they need to purchase the campground portion of the property so that they can sell RV lots there.

At that time, they proposed to lease the area with the boat docks, marina and the main building (formerly Lightsey’s Restaurant). The county will maintain operation of an area that will be designated for airboats. The leased property will still be owned by the county. Guy Harvey Outpost and Elite Resorts want to purchase the campground area from the county.

This change in the proposal required the county to obtain permission from the state, since the state still had an interest in the property.

The county completed the purchase of the state’s interest in the Hog Island property in October 2016. This allows the county the option to sell the campground portion of the Okee-Tantie Recreation Area.

At their Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016, meeting, the Okeechobee County Commission adopted an ordinance which allows the county to consider factors other than price when choosing the best “bid” on county property. It allows the commissioners to choose the proposal they determine to be best for the future of the county.

Due to the changes in the concept, the county had to put out a Request for Proposals (RFP) on the property and allow all interested parties to bid. The bid is for the highest and best use of the property, not just the highest price.

https://vrapp.vendorregistry.com/Bids/View/Bid/6cf97922-19de-43d5-810e-2a6f83da0dde

Publisher/Editor Katrina Elsken can be reached at kelsken@newszap.com

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