Attorney Mark Woodward discusses the challenges of utilizing the RIBS property as a location for dredged material from Marco canals.
The potential sale of the surplus property known as the Rapid Infiltration Basin (RIBS), located adjacent to Fiddler’s Creek on Mainsail Drive, was in two separate City Council discussions during the May 8th meeting. First, it was linked with a project dealing with the possible dredging of city-wide canals. Justin Martin, Director of Public Works, explained that the project would involve using smaller dredges within the city’s canals to pump sediment under the Marco River to Mainsail Drive. From there, it would hook up with an old 16” pipe which directed treated effluent from the old wastewater treatment facility to the RIBS property.
The second conversation asked councilors exactly what they wanted to do with the property, specifically whether to keep it or place it up for bid. The property includes a land bridge that provides access to the once-utilized RIBS. If the land bridge were removed, it could create a two to three-mile connection of the creek within Fiddlers for residents’ use.
City Manager Mike McNees said, “Your options are really fairly limited. It’s either put it out to bid again to see what kind of offers we get, which would be the second time we would have put it out to bid or has been suggested earlier this evening to hold the property because it may prove to be of some beneficial use to the city.” He went on to say that Staff recommended the city hold onto the property.
Councilors discussed the various appraisals they have received on the property, ranging from $65,000 to $2 million, with none feeling confident about the appraisal numbers.
Larry Hepler, a Fiddler’s Creek property owner, spoke about the LLC that was put together to make an offer on the property. “We want to remove the land bridge and allow full length of the creek to be used by our residents, which we’ve been trying to do for all the last six years.” Only electric pontoons and other watercraft would be utilized along the waterway.
Zach Lombardo, one of the lawyers for the LLC said,” You have a buyer who has a unique desire for this property and interest now, and they’re organized now and they have the ability to organize funds now to make a bid.”
Attorney Mark Woodward said, “I saw from the reports that were provided to me in 2019 when (the City) shut down the facility, the DEP required the monitoring wells that were there to be filled with concrete and capped. And there was quite a process just to close down that facility. So the concept that you’re going to reopen the facility for another purpose that’s not allowed by either the PUD or by any of the easements and get this approval, I’m not optimistic,” Woodward said.
Council Chair Folley followed up on Woodward’s comments. “One of the challenges, I think, with the suggestion on the pumping operation to this location is the more good it does for the canals by getting things that are not good to have at the bottom of the canals, the more problematic it becomes to take it someplace else and put it in proximity to Fiddler’s Creek in terms of their willingness to resist it legally and otherwise. This is just an observation,” Folley said.
Councilors agreed there was no harm in re-advertising the property and so it will be put out for bid again.