Saturday, February 12, 2011

BCCLT Status Report

The BCCLT now has an agreement in place with the Key West Housing Authority, for KWHA  to buy BCCLT's properties.  Appraisals have been made.  The purchase price will be enough to pay all liabilities, and there should be a substantial amount left to carry out repairs and rehabs where needed.  KWHA has now assumed responsibility for rental management and maintenance services.  

In the end, all bills will be paid, all tenants will be protected in their homes, and the Housing Authority will have an already-existing pool of low-income housing to manage.  

And the land trust as it was will be no more.  

It's too bad.  BCCLT was responsible for many good things in Bahama Village.  It struggled for its existence for many years.  It always tried to do too much with too little.  Eventually it came down to a decision -- merge, sell, or go bankrupt.

The Board of Directors deserve much credit for bringing things to a successful conclusion.

Friday, February 19, 2010

National Community Land Trust Network Report

National CLT Network Assessment for:
BAHAMA CONCH Community Land Trust
Submitted By: John E. Davis – Burlington Associates and
Joseph E. Gray – JEG Urban Planning Associates

Final Report - Recommendations for Disposition of BCCLT Properties

When the National Community Land Trust Network became aware of mounting problems at the Bahama Conch Community Land Trust (BCCLT), the Network offered to assist the BCCLT’s board in weighing its options for either rebuilding the organization or transferring its assets to another organization better able to manage BCCLT’s troubled portfolio of land and housing.

The National CLT Network contracted with Burlington Associates in Community Development, LLC and JEG Urban Planning Associates, Inc. to conduct an objective, third-party assessment of the BCCLT. The twin goals of this assessment were (1) to evaluate the BCCLT’s organizational capacity and community support and (2) to identify paths the organization might pursue in resolving its many problems.

The evaluation was conducted in three phases. A preliminary site visit, conducted on November 17–20, 2009, identified and engaged the BCCLT’s leaders and community stakeholders in order to sort out relevant issues and opportunities. A second site visit, conducted on December 14– 18, 2009, assessed the organizations’ financial condition, operational capacity, and community support. A third site visit, conducted on January 6–8, 2010, reviewed our initial findings and the City’s audit report with the BCCLT board and key community stakeholders. We also met with possible future organizational partners and/or successors to the BCCLT, evaluating alternative options and scenarios for the organization.

This report is intended to provide a summary of our observations and findings from the three site visits, and to identify potential work-out options for the organization and the community. Our recommendations are advisory. We have described the pros and cons of alternative courses of action in order to aid BCCLT board members who have diligently stayed at their posts through the current crisis, searching for a way out of the woods. The BCCLT board retains the sole authority to decide which path to pursue.


The following observations and findings are based upon reviews of various organizational documents and media reports concerning the BCCLT, tours of the BCCLT’s properties, and interviews with members of the BCCLT’s Board of Directors, elected officials and administrative staff of the City of Key West, community stakeholders, and leaders of several organizations providing affordable housing in the lower Keys.

1. The BCCLT is in a state of extreme financial distress

A. The primary source of funding for the organization comes from monthly receipts from its rental properties; however, the board is unclear as to the status of many of its properties with regard to occupancy rates, capital needs, utility bills, and maintenance costs.

B. Tax Increment Finance (TIF) funding from the City of Key West, previously pledged to the BCCLT for operating and property maintenance expenses, has been reallocated to other projects in the district for the current fiscal year. City leaders have stated unequivocally that no additional TIF funding will be made available to the organization in the near future.

C. The organization is faced with possible claims for the recovery of public funds granted by the City, County, and State in the past because of poor documentation by the BCCLT, reimbursement for ineligible costs, or the BCCLT’s violation of various grant conditions. The organization is heavily in arrears in payments that are owed to a number of private vendors as well.

2. Several of the BCCLT’s properties require major repairs to meet City code standards.

A. One of the organization’s signature properties was recently condemned by the City due to health and safety code violations, forcing the eviction of all tenants.

B. A capital needs assessment of the other properties will need to be conducted to determine repair needs and costs. None of these properties meets housing quality standards.

C. Current rents fall short of meeting the buildings’ operating costs.
D. Rental properties are no longer covered by insurance.

3.The organization currently has no paid staff, and no permanent office space.

A. A current board member with property management experience has been handling day-to-day operations, including coordinating rent collections and repairs.

B. The organization’s offices are located in a residential property that was improperly converted for office use with grant funds that were awarded to the BCCLT for the development of affordable housing. The BCCLT is presently moving out of this space in order to bring it back into residential use in accordance with grant requirements.

4. The City’s financial support for the organization has been discontinued based upon the findings a City-commissioned “forensic audit.”

A. The audit report included numerous negative findings regarding the organization’s management practices, record keeping, reporting, and project management.

B. The Mayor and City Commissioners who were interviewed by us all indicated strong support for the CLT concept, but indicated it would be impossible for them to continue to support the BCCLT as a result of the audit and public’s poor perception of the organization.

C. The City Commission has voted unanimously not to enter into a 99-year lease with the BCCLT for 6.6 acres on the Key West waterfront that had been reserved for development by the BCCLT. This opportunity is gone.

5. The BCCLT has suffered extensive damage to its reputation and has lost much community support as a result of recent negative publicity and ongoing disputes with the City.

A.  Recent newspaper articles chronicling the organization’s conflicts with the City and the recent release of the City’s forensic audit have been hot topics of conversation throughout Key West, casting the BCCLT in a poor light.

B. The organization is currently suffering from a crisis in leadership, in spite of the best efforts by existing board members to get control of the situation.

C. Several members of the board have resigned in recent months, casting doubt on the organization’s stability and ability to survive.

D. The Executive Director’s abrupt termination has helped to widen existing divisions within the community.

E. A majority of the BCCLT’s current board members were not on the board when most of the reported negative activities occurred, but they continue to be blamed for the organization’s failures.

F. There is only one leaseholder currently serving on the board. The organization does not have an active and well-established corporate membership that might provide constituent support.

G. In spite of all of the organization’s real and perceived problems, the general consensus among stakeholders throughout Key West was that the work of the organization was important, especially within Bahama Village. Several members of the community expressed strong support for the organization and vowed to becomemore involved in the future, should the BCCLT find a way to survive – perhaps taking on a different mission than the development of affordable housing.



Our own decision making about which courses of action to recommend – and which to reject – has been guided by three priorities. By our lights, any work-out plan for salvaging BCCLT’s properties that does not fulfill these inter-related priorities should be deemed unacceptable.

Priority #1: Protect BCCLT’s Residents
BCCLT owns and oversees both rental housing and owner-occupied homes on leased land. The highest priority for any work-out plan must be to prevent the displacement of current residents or, if necessary, to provide replacement housing of equal affordability and better quality than the BCCLT housing they presently occupy.

Priority #2: Stabilize BCCLT’s Buildings
Much of BCCLT’s rental housing is in poor repair, and may not meet the federal government’s Housing Quality Standards or the city’s building and occupancy codes. Utility bills are in ar- rears and most insurance coverage has been canceled. Any work-out plan must prevent the further deterioration of this housing stock.

Priority #3: Preserve a Permanent Portfolio of Affordable Housing
Part of BCCLT’s mission was to provide a bulwark against gentrification, preserving the rem- nant of a culturally and historically significant community by permanently removing a portion of the neighborhood’s residential property from the marketplace. The public agencies that supported BCCLT in the past are likely not willing to grant or to loan any more funds to BCCLT at the current time. However, by all indications, they remain supportive of the mission espoused by BCCLT. They seem to be less concerned with recapturing the funds previously invested in BCCLT’s properties than in preserving the affordable housing those funds helped to create. Any work-out plan must ensure that a stock of affordably priced rental housing and resale-restricted homeowner housing continues to exist for lower-income households who have long called Bahama Village their home.


Although CLTs across the United States have compiled an enviable 40-year record of survival and success, especially when compared to most other nonprofit and for-profit developers of affordable housing, the Bahama Conch Community Land Trust is hardly the first CLT to sail into troubled waters. Other CLTs have had to find a way to right themselves in the face of fierce organizational, financial, or legal winds. When that has happened, CLTs have adopted several alternative strategies for saving their clients, their assets, and themselves. The most common of these work-out strategies have been the following:

1. They have stepped back from the brink of disaster, sometimes with the help of a “blue ribbon panel” or consultants like us, and reconstituted the board, refinanced their properties, rebuilt their staff, and repaired their damaged organization.

2. They have distributed their assets to another nonprofit or public-sector organization, eventually dissolving the CLT.

3. They have merged with another nonprofit, combining their boards and assets into a new entity that was still structured and operated as a CLT.

4. They have contracted with another nonprofit corporation to manage the CLT’s assets and to administer the CLT’s operations for a three-to-five-year period while the CLT board pulled itself together, eventually resuming control over its own assets and operations.

5. They have contracted with a public housing authority to manage the CLT’s assets and to administer the CLT’s operations for a three-to-five-year period while the CLT board pulled itself together, eventually resuming control over its own assets and operations.

We considered all five of these strategies (and a few others besides) in evaluating the work- out options for BCCLT. Before discussing those options that seem to us to hold the most promise in the present situation in Key West, let us describe four courses of action that we reluctantly rejected – while explaining why we came to that conclusion.

Rejected Path #1: Convene a Blue Ribbon Panel

Were it not for the size and severity of the problems afflicting BCCLT’s portfolio of rental housing, we would probably have recommended the creation of a blue ribbon panel of housing professionals and community leaders to develop a master plan for salvaging BCCLT’s portfolio and, perhaps, for saving the BCCLT. We ended up rejecting that course of action for three reasons:

(a) the actual liabilities documented by the City’s “forensic audit” of BCCLT, although nowhere near the “$1.7 million in debt” repeatedly and irresponsibly reported by the local press, are still substantial enough to scare off many leading citizens who might have otherwise been inclined to serve on such a panel;

(b) the effectiveness of such a panel would depend on adequate staffing to convene the panel’s meetings and to conduct the legal, financial, and title research that will be necessary before any decision can be made about selling, transferring, or repairing and retaining BCCLT’s troubled portfolio; and

(c) the level of deterioration, the lack of insurance, and the unpaid bills on many of BCCLT’s rental properties demand urgent intervention, allowing little time for a blue ribbon panel to calmly deliberate over several months while looking for a comprehensive solution to BCCLT’s problems.

Nevertheless, we believe there may be a role for some sort of blue ribbon panel to play down the road. After the BCCLT board has transferred key properties to another organization that is better suited to stabilizing them and managing them, there may be merit in convening a group of community leaders to consider the question of whether the BCCLT should be dissolved, re- placed, or re-purposed and re-structured to perform a different mission than the development and stewardship of affordable housing.

Rejected Path #2: Resuscitate BCCLT as a Housing Developer
Over the last 40 years, there have been a number of CLTs that fell on hard times, but later rose from the ashes to recover their footing as an active developer of affordable housing. These were organizations, however, where the hole was less deep and the board less weary than is currently the case with the BCCLT. These were also organizations that retained the backing of local government and other public and private funders, who remained willing to invest more money in helping the CLT to survive. The BCCLT has none of these advantages. It has, instead, a troubled portfolio and neither the professional staff nor financial resources to take care of its current holdings. None of the organization’s funders that have supported BCCLT in the past appear willing to invest another dollar in these older properties as long as the BCCLT remains the owner. Neither are they willing to invest in helping BCCLT to acquire new properties. The City’s recent decision, moreover, not to lease 6.6 acres of waterfront land to BCCLT has removed the last major opportunity for the BCCLT to be a substantive developer in the near future. We cannot see any path that BCCLT might take that would allow its survival and revival as a developer and steward of affordable housing in the foreseeable future.

Rejected Path #3: Contract with Another Entity
We came to Key West with the hope that some sort of multi-year “receivership” might be possible, where the BCCLT would remain the owner of the land and housing assembled over the past 14 years, while contracting with the Key West Housing Authority or another entity to staff the BCCLT and to manage its portfolio. Three years or five years down the road, after retiring its liabilities and rebuilding its board, the BCCLT might regain control over its own organization and assets. This has been a path to recovery for several CLTs in the past. We were unable to recommend this course of action, however, simply because no organizational entity, public or private, could be found that was willing to take over management of BCCLT’s troubled portfolio without assuming actual ownership of that portfolio. No public funder could be found, moreover, that was willing invest any money in repairing and salvaging that portfolio as long as the BCCLT remains the owner.

Rejected Path #4: Divide BCCLT’s Properties Among Several Entities
Among the organizational entities that are possible recipients of the BCCLT’s properties, there is a range of experience and expertise. Some have specialized in the development and management of rental housing. Some have specialized in the development and stewardship of re-sale-restricted, owner-occupied housing. It might be argued, therefore, that the best plan for salvaging the BCCLT’s portfolio would be for the BCCLT board to transfer its renter-occupied housing to one entity and its owner-occupied housing to another. We rejected that course of action because we believe that the BCCLT does not have the time, resources, or staff to develop a fully researched, carefully considered plan for determining which properties should go to which recipient. Nor do we believe that prospective recipients of the BCCLT’s portfolio will consent to accepting all the liabilities associated with the BCCLT’s properties without having all of the assets. It is a wiser and faster course of action to transfer the entire portfolio to a single entity, allowing that White Knight to decide which properties should be retained, which (if any) should be sold, and which (if any) should be transferred to another not-for-profit organization.

The only reasonable and sustainable paths that remain, we regret to say, lead straight to the transfer of the BCCLT’s land and housing to another organization – as quickly as possible.

This is the only course of action with a realistic prospect of protecting the tenants, stabilizing the buildings, and preserving a stock of permanently affordable housing in Bahama Village.

These priorities trump all other concerns, including any lingering desire to “save” the BCCLT.

The urgent matter facing the BCCLT board is deciding which organization should receive the BCCLT’s assets. There are, we believe, four viable options that should be seriously consid- ered. To assist the BCCLT in making its decision, we have attempted to describe the principal pros and cons of each.

Option #1: Transfer All Properties to the Key West Housing Authority
Key West is fortunate to have a well-run, well-respected housing authority with a long history
of managing rental housing in Bahama Village. A due diligence review of BCCLT’s portfolio
would need to be performed by the housing authority’s staff before a recommendation could be brought to the housing authority’s board to accept BCCLT’s land and housing. The director of the Key West Housing Authority has suggested that such a review could be completed within 30 days. Depending on the findings and his board’s approval, he has indicated his openness to taking over the ownership and management of this troubled portfolio.

• As the preferred option of the City’s leaders, this particular destination for the BCCLT’s portfolio is most likely to attract the public investment – especially TIF funding from the City – that will be needed to stabilize and upgrade rental properties that are presently in poor repair.
• The housing authority has the staff, systems, and expertise to do a superior job of manag- ing the BCCLT’s portfolio of rental housing.
• The BCCLT’s low-income tenants will have a better chance of receiving rental assistance once they become tenants of the housing authority and once their buildings meet Housing Quality Standards. In BCCLT buildings where meeting HQS proves to be impossible and where tenants must be relocated, tenants are more likely to be assigned a higher place on the waiting list for replacement housing or rental assistance if their building is owned by the housing authority.
• The housing authority shares the BCCLT’s commitment to permanently affordable housing – and is open to including and expanding resale-restricted owner-occupied housing within its holdings.
• The Monroe County Land Authority is no longer willing to convey the title to land to non- profit organizations, due in part to its negative experience with BCCLT. It will now give land only to public entities – of which the Key West Housing Authority is one. In the near future, a housing authority acting like a CLT may be the best chance for expanding leased-land, resale-restricted, owner-occupied housing in Key West.

• Although the Key West Housing Authority is clearly held in higher regard than most PHAs around the country, the housing authority brings a hefty amount of political baggage to the deal. There are members of the community and some tenants of the BCCLT who would be vocally opposed to any move to transfer the BCCLT’s portfolio to the housing authority. The BCCLT’s homeowners, in particular, may express concern about the land under their homes being owned by a governmental entity instead of a nonprofit organization, which may make their homes harder to sell in the future.
• The housing authority may be an experienced developer and manager of rental housing, but the same cannot be said about homeowner housing. It has had no experience with the development and stewardship of owner-occupied housing on leased land – the model of tenure pioneered by the BCCLT.
• Unlike a CLT, the governing board of the housing authority does not reserve a significant block of seats for representatives of the tenants who occupy its housing.

Option #2: Transfer All Properties to Habitat for Humanity
Habitat for Humanity for Key West and the Lower Florida Keys has offices in Key West and Big Pine Key. The organization has developed 53 resale-restricted, owner-occupied homes, 42 of them on leased land. The affordability of the remaining 11 homes is secured through a deed covenant. These properties will be converted to a ground lease arrangement when they resell, since Habitat deems a CLT-type ground lease to be a more effective and sustainable vehicle for protecting affordability. Three years ago, Habitat started developing small-scale rental housing as well. After the hurricane of 2005, Habitat did approximately 160 repairs of damaged homes, a lot of them in Bahama Village. Amidst the current downturn, Habitat has become the most active homebuilder in Monroe County, with 30 building permits in hand.


• This Habitat chapter has an excellent track record, an experienced staff, and a diversified base of funding, drawing on individual donations, church contributions, governmental grants and loans, and various resources available from Habitat International.
• Its track record is likely to attract the public funding that will be needed to stabilize and upgrade BCCLT rental property that is presently in poor repair.
• It has experience with both the construction of new housing and the rehabilitation of older housing, especially units with historic features that can be difficult to rehabilitate. About 60% of its housing has been new construction; 40% has been rehab.
• Although not technically a community land trust, lacking as it does both the place-based membership and the three-part board of the “classic” CLT, this Habitat chapter comes very close to looking and operating like a CLT. In the way that it structures the leasing of land and the ownership of owner-occupied housing and in its commitment to the permanent af- fordability of its homes, Habitat for Humanity for Key West and the Lower Keys has em- braced a mission and model that puts it squarely within the CLT camp.


• Habitat is an experienced developer of owner-occupied housing, but its experience as a developer and manager of rental housing is more recent and limited.
• Habitat has served a clientele that is, on average, better off financially than the tenant households served by the BCCLT.
• Unlike the housing authority, Habitat has no presence in Bahama Village. There is no bur- den of political baggage, but it also lacks deep familiarity with this disadvantaged commu- nity.
• Unlike a CLT, the governing board of this Habitat chapter does not reserve a significant block of seats for representatives of the lower-income homeowners who occupy its housing.

Option #3: Transfer All Properties to the Middle Keys CLT
The Middle Keys Community Land Trust (MKCLT), headquartered in Marathon, was founded in 2000. It is the developer and steward of 24 resale-restricted, owner-occupied homes on leased land and the developer and manager for 16 affordably priced, renter-occupied apart- ments. It also owns several undeveloped parcels of land.

• This organization is a community land trust. It structures the ownership and operation of residential property in the same way as the BCCLT. It also has the three-part board of the “classic” CLT, with equal representation from people living in its housing, people living in the neighborhoods surrounding its housing, and people serving the “public interest.”
Were the BCCLT’s properties to be absorbed into MKCLT, the latter’s executive director has expressed a willingness to add one Key West resident to each of the three categories on his board.
• The Middle Keys CLT has developed and managed resale-restricted, owner-occupied hous- ing on leased land and affordably priced rental housing, serving roughly the same income- eligible population as the BCCLT.
• With the exception of the City of Key West, the same public agencies that have funded the BCCLT in the past – and that must be approached right away to address the problems created and the liabilities incurred by the BCCLT – have funded the MKCLT. The latter would be well positioned to negotiate the resolution of the BCCLT’s outstanding issues with these public funders.
• The MKCLT’s executive director has already recruited a team of people who could conduct the sort of document review and title research that will be needed by the BCCLT board in deciding whether the BCCLT’s portfolio can be transferred (or sold).

• The Middle Keys CLT has an experienced director and a strong board, but it is thinly staffed, compared to either the Key West Housing Authority or Habitat for Humanity.
• The MKCLT’s headquarters is located 50 miles away. This organization does not have a physical presence in Key West or Bahama Village. As a result, the MKCLT is unknown to the community and the city government of Key West. It would take time to build the necessary relationships that could translate into financial support and political support within Key West.
• All of the MKCLT’s residential projects have been new construction. It has no experience with the rehabilitation of older, historic structures like those in Bahama Village.
• The Middle Keys CLT is a stable, successful nonprofit organization. Its hard-won stability could be undermined by introducing a troubled portfolio into its midst.

Option #4: Transfer All Properties to an LLC Run by Two or More Entities
The final option that is worthy of consideration is to create a Limited Liability Company for re- ceiving all of the BCCLT’s assets and liabilities. This LLC would be managed by one of the three organizational entities identified above. Representatives from one or both of the other entities, representatives from the City of Key West, and one or two BCCLT board members, might be given seats on the new LLC’s board, lending their voices and expertise to the process of planning for the future disposition of the BCCLT’s portfolio. Depending on the outcome of the LLC’s overall plan for the eventual use and disposition of this portfolio, a re-constituted BCCLT might resume control over a property or properties that would allow the BCCLT to carry out a very different program of community service than the BCCLT’s original focus on affordable housing. (Alternatively, the BCCLT might decide to retain ownership of one or more properties, when transferring the rest of its portfolio to the LLC.)


• This arrangement would shield the managing partner of the LLC, as well as the other lim- ited partners and organizations represented on the LLC’s board, from liabilities attached to the BCCLT’s portfolio.
• The managing partner could move quickly to stabilize the worst properties in the BCCLT’s portfolio, while buying more time and including more partners in moving carefully and de- liberately toward a plan for the rest of the properties.
• The BCCLT, if given a seat or two on the LLC’s board, would retain a voice in guiding the use and disposition of the assets it once owned. If the BCCLT were to be a limited (non- managing) partner in the LLC, it would retain an ownership stake in this portfolio.

• There is no guarantee that any of the prospective recipients of the BCCLT’s portfolio would agree to serve as the LLC’s managing partner, if they were not able to add these assets to their own balance sheet immediately.
• Conflicting interests and parochial loyalties on the part of the representatives from multiple organizations on the LLC’s board could slow the process of deciding what to do with the BCCLT’s troubled portfolio.
• It is not clear how the legal costs of setting up the LLC and transferring property would be covered.
• Allowing the BCCLT even a minority voice or minority stake in the LLC might make the City, County, or State think twice about investing public dollars in stabilizing and expanding the LLC’s residential portfolio.

The board of the Bahama Conch Community Land Trust must weigh these options and move
quickly to decide which organization – or organizations – are best-suited to receiving, repair-
ing, and managing the BCCLT’s properties. As part of these deliberations, the board should also decide what conditions it will place on the transfer of properties. These conditions should focus not on setting a price for the BCCLT’s portfolio, but on protecting the security of tenure for the BCCLT’s tenants and homeowners, stabilizing (and insuring) the BCCLT’s buildings, and perpetuating the affordability of the BCCLT’s housing. Some consideration might also be given to assuring a voice for Bahama Village’s residents in the governance of any organization(s) designated to receive the BCCLT’s properties. The poor condition of much of the BCCLT’s portfolio and the extensive liabilities that would accompany the conveyance of these assets strongly argue that, except for the possible sale of a property or two on the open market to cover immediate debts, the BCCLT board should not expect the housing authority, Habitat, or the Middle Keys CLT to make an upfront payment for the acquisition of the BCCLT’s portfolio. Any equity distributions to the BCCLT should be determined after the total value of the properties has been assessed, relative to outstanding liabilities and long-term maintenance costs.

Regardless of which organizational option is eventually chosen by the BCCLT board, close attention should be paid to the process for making and announcing this decision. There are half-a-dozen touchstones that should not be overlooked as the board moves forward with its work-out plan.

1. Document review by BCCLT. Before any properties can be sold on the market or transferred to another not-for-profit entity, there will need to be an examination of grant agreements, deed covenants, and title documents pertaining to every property in the BCCLT’s portfolio.

2. Due diligence review by prospective recipients of BCCLT properties. None of the organizations that are candidates to receive BCCLT properties is going to be able or willing to make a decision about taking over these properties without doing their own assessment of the condition of the portfolio and the liabilities that would accompany the transfer of these assets. The BCCLT board will need to open its properties and its books to the scrutiny of these prospective recipients.

3. Consultation with City officials. The City of Key West has been a major investor in the BCCLT in the past. Funds administered by the City, especially TIF proceeds that are targeted to Bahama Village, are likely to be a major factor in stabilizing and improving the BCCLT’s properties in the future, after the properties are transferred to another organizational entity. On both counts, it is incumbent upon the BCCLT board to involve the Mayor, the City Manager, and the City Commissioner who represents the district in which BCCLT’s properties are located in the process of weighing its options and making its decision about moving forward. The disposition of the BCCLT’s properties is a decision that belongs to the board alone, but the preservation and improvement of that portfolio is going to depend on the City’s support.

4. Consultation with other creditors and funders. Before and after the transfer of the BCCLT’s properties to another organizational entity, all of the liabilities identified in the “forensic audit” commissioned by the City will need to be addressed. Fortunately, most of these liabilities are not what the local press has incorrectly characterized as “debts” that must be repaid. Most of these liabilities involve public investment that may be allowed to remain in the properties as long as they are managed in compliance with the program’s guidelines. Some of these liabilities simply do not exist. Nevertheless, there is a need for speed in beginning the process of correcting the serious contractual violations and negotiating payment of the outstanding bills revealed by the City’s audit. Every public funder and every private lender with a stake in the BCCLT’s properties should be consulted before any plan is proposed for transferring these properties to another owner.

5. Consultation with the BCCLT’s tenants and homeowners. Another group of stakeholders must be kept informed of any proposed plan for the BCCLT’s portfolio: the people who live in this housing. Their anxiety has grown with every rumor and report of the BCCLT’s troubles. Since they are the ones most personally affected by the BCCLT’s problems and most directly concerned with what will happen to the BCCLT’s buildings and lands, they deserve to receive current and accurate information at every step in the process.

6. Coordination with Partners in Announcing a Work-out Plan. Members of the BCCLT board have endured months of bad press and public criticism, even though a majority of them were not on the board when many of the problems revealed by the City’s “forensic audit” occurred. A similar degree of scrutiny and condemnation has not been directed, so far, at the city, county, and state agencies that funded the BCCLT and failed to correct these problems before they became so severe. It may be only a matter of time, however, before the search for culprits is expanded and the opportunity to proclaim a more positive message is lost. The BCCLT and its partners must move quickly – and jointly – to adopt a plan that all parties can endorse and that all parties can announce as the best way to put a troubled history to rest and to secure a better future for the tenants, homeowners, and properties that have been a part of the BCCLT.

Saturday, August 15, 2009




Why was August 23rd chosen as the date of the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition? Because it commemorates the uprising of enslaved Africans in Bois Caiman, in the north of the then French colony of Santo Domingo, on the nights of August 22-23, 1791. This uprising played a critical role in the abolition of slavery.

Key West, Florida 1860 African Memorial Site Progress

As a part of the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its abolition, and the involvement of the U.S. Coast Guard stationed here in Key West, FL in 1860 that intercepted over 1400 captured Africans in the Atlantic Ocean near Cuba and brought them to safety in Key West, Ms. Norma Jean Sawyer, Member of the Volunteer Committee for the 1860 African Memorial Site Project, Prof. Gene Tinnie, Lead Concept Artist for the Project, and Johnson Odibi, Nigerian born artist and contributor to the concept design for the project will gather members of the Diaspora Arts Coalition of Miami, FL, drummers from the local community, and residents of Monroe County to give a stirring educational presentation of the significance of this historic site to International history and the plans to introduce the site and its story to UNESCO for consideration as a potential World Heritage Site.

From the Diaspora Arts Coalition of Miami, FL, storyteller Madafo will give us a broad overview of Africans that were forced into slavery and its effect on Africans in the Diaspora. Madafo is also an acclaimed writer, public radio show host, as well as a featured Storyteller at festivals throughout the USA, Africa, and Europe.

Lead Artist Gene Tinnie, will share the story of how the Adinkra symbols on each of the columns at the site were chosen, while others from the community are invited to read the meaning of each of the symbol.

Artist Johnson Odibi will described aspects of other art work at the site and its significance to the story of the Africans that are buried at the site, while Ms. Sawyer will speak to the involvement of the citizens of Key West in 1860 and today that came together to protect and care for the Africans in life and now, in preserving the story of their untimely demise during the horrendous Trans Atlantic Slave Trade.

We humbly invite the public to come be a part of this International Day of Remembrance as we reach out to the children in our community. Please bring your children, grandchildren, history class, and Sunday school classes to learn of this important history, to appreciate the part that the people of Key West played in this International event, and to learn how they can continue its preservation for future generations. The program will begin promptly at 6:00 p.m. at the site on Higgs Beach.

For more Information contact Norma Jean Sawyer at 305-294-0884 or email inquiring to

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Waterfront Defense

We let this blog go quiet for a while, in fact, for quite a while, last October 25 to be exact.

In view of the current brouhaha about the erroneous overpayment and allegations of fraud, duplicity and other potentially unethical or criminal behavior, it's time to set the record straight. We began doing that with a press conference on Thursday, May 7th, that is now showing up in the Key West Citizen and the Keynoter

Readers are invited to read the articles and the comments attached to them, and to then return here to ask any questions they may have. Thoughtful and polite comments will be accepted anonymously, but we encourage readers, especially Bahama Village readers, to give their names and to become involved in the defense of the waterfront, including the Bahama Conch Village. Questions raised by readers will be answered as expeditiously as possible and in this forum.

Any one who wants to meet with a board member, for any reason, can call the BCCLT office, (305) 294-0884, and ask for an appointment or a call back

Robert Kelly
BCCLT Board Member

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Radio Interview

Guy DeBoer of Manley-DeBoer Lumber Co. broadcasts a weekly radio program called On The Waterfront each Saturday morning at 10:00 AM on WIIS, Island Radio 107.1 FM. As the blog name implies, deBoer's focus is the waterside of Key West.

This past August (21st) deBoer's guests for the entire one-hour program were Norma Jean Sawyer-Atanda, BCCLT's Executive Director, and her deputy, Wheeler Winstead. I hadn't heard the interview before now, but discovered that deBoer has a web site where his weekly programs are archived and can be played or downloaded. I thought that the interview with Norma-Jean and Wheeler was very effective in describing the mission, the history, and the current state of affairs at the BCCLT.

The interview can be found here; Scroll down to August 21 and click on the link there.