Okee-Tantie contract negotiations with Bass Pro Shops continue

OKEECHOBEE — Okeechobee County continues to move forward with contract negotiations with Bass Pro Shops to buy Okee-Tantie for $3 million and develop it as a world-class fishing resort.

At the Oct. 12 Okeechobee County Attorney John Cassels said the contract has gone back and forth between the county and Bass Pro Shops, for several months with each side making changes.

“It takes time to negotiate something of this magnitude,” said Chairman Burroughs. “The county has been working on this contract for months.”

Once the contract is signed, Bass Pro will give the county $300,000. They will then have nine months to develop the plan for the property. If, after the nine months, Bass Pro decides to opt out of the contract, the county still keeps the $300,000.

“The nine-month option starts the day we sign the agreement with Bass Pro,” he said. A lot of the public does not seem to understand the nine-month time frame has not yet started.

This is to be expected with a project this big, he said.

Commissioner Brad Goodbread said the contract should include a right of first refusal should Bass Pro decide to sell the property after taking possession of it.

Commission Chairman Terry Burroughs agreed.

“This isn’t your normal kind of negotiation. This was an open-bid process,” he said.

Mr. Cassels suggested they add a clause that if before construction begins, Bass Pro decides to sell the property, the county would have the option to refund their money.

“If they decide they want to sell it before they begin construction, you should refund the $3 million,” he said. He said this would prevent the property from being “flipped” or sold to someone else before Bass Pro develops it.

“I want us to have more control of the future of the property,” said Commissioner Goodbread. “The only other way we could do it is through zoning.”

Mr. Cassels said he thinks the board made a good faith decision by going with a company with the reputation and credentials of Bass Pro.

“I feel very comfortable that he (John Morris) is going to come through,” said Chairman Burroughs.

Mr. Cassels said the $300,000 is a cost of their option.

“It’s not a deposit,” he said.

Mr. Cassels noted the $3 million is not the county’s primary reason for selling the property.

The contract states, in part:

“It is acknowledged that this Agreement was entered into as a result of a competitive bid process and that the Buyer is a related entity to American Sportsman Holding Co. d/b/a Bass Pro Shops and/or John L. Morris, the Majority Shareholder of American Sportsman Holding Co., a Missouri corporation (collectively referred to as “Bass Pro Shops”). The reputation for quality development and sportsman related products of Bass Pro Shops, as well as its national scope and track record for successful projects, was a major factor in it being ranking first for negotiation of the sale of the Property.

“It is also acknowledged that a primary motivation for the Seller entering into an agreement to sell the Property which is situated on what is considered by many, including John L Morris, to be “… the most notable bass fishing lake in America,” is the desire to encourage economic development and tourism through the creation of a destination high-quality fishing resort.”

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