Hello and Welcome to My Page!
My name is Harvey T.R. Mitchell, and I am the Honorary Chair of the Concerned New Smyrna Beach Citizens (CCNSB), Florida. I became involved with this group in the Fall of 2008, when I observed the New Smyrna Beach City Commission attempt to raise the property tax rate by 11.2% at the same time as we were watching the housing market and financial centers meltdown begin. At the same time, this City Commission was handing out an across the board 2% Cost of Living wage increase to City employees, funding a police take-home car program where 80% of the vehicles left the City at the end of their shift, and a Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) that was poorly managed and failed to follow its own plan, resulting in threats from the County Government to take back their portion of the CRA's operating funds. In summation, the Commission had forgotten the taxpayer in favor of special interest groups, such a private men's club with 43 slips and a membership policy that restricted its membership to pre-Civil Rights Act levels.
In response, I saw a few vocal and dedicated citizens and taxpayers stand up to this misguided City Commission and force them to reduce the tax rate back to the 2007-2008 level. This group was backed, that night, by an overflow crowd that demanded their elected officials listen to them or they would recall them from their positions and elect new commissioners to replace them. I thought, if these people could stand up, there was probably some way that I should become involved and thus my association with Concerned Citizens and Taxpayers (now CCNSB) began.
After reviewing the City's financial situation, I came across a listing of City owned property that was leased out to a variety of private enterprises, clubs, and obviously charitable groups. However, one of these leases jumped out because of its lack of monetary return to the City. It was a lease for what initial review revealed to be a private men's club, with a membership of 90 people that appeared, by its charter, to be restricted to white males over the age of 21. This club, known as the Anglers Yacht Club of New Smyrna Beach, occupied City land that faces the Intracoastal Waterway and upon which they had a clubhouse and 43 slips for boats of all sizes. In addition, the AYC is adjacent ot the City Marina, where similar boat slips go for about $500.00 per month in rent. However waht was most striking was the City only received annual rent of $25.00 per year for this obviously prime waterfront property that is most probably, even in a down market, to be valued at more than $3,000,000.00.
So the Anglers Club became my first review project and with help from the rest of the group, I was able to put together a White Paper, that was delivered to the Mayor of New Smyrna Beach, Florida on January 2, 2009. That White Paper can be read by following this LINK to our Anglers Club page.
Despite the completeness of the White Paper, the City Commission spent over four months debating how to respond. The City Attorney provided opinions based on limited research and an apparent desire to avoid involvement, that the lease with the Anglers Club was legal and could not be broken. Our group forcefully advocated for an outside legal review of the entire relationship between the City and the Anglers Club with a focus on answering my 18 questions posed in the White paper. After much delay, the Commission relented and secured the services of an Orlando, Florida law firm by the name of Shutts & Bowen, LLP and on July 10, 2009, they submitted their report to the Mayor and City Commission. Although not formerly released by the City, a copy of that report made its way to the Web and was published by the NSBShadow.com website on Friday, July 17, 2009. You can read that legal opinion by following this LINK to our Anglers Club page.
Much to everyone's surprise, the essential finding, among others, of the report was that the City did not have the legal authority to enter into the 1944 lease with the Angler Club and thus the lease was void. While some may quibble with some of the wording in some areas of the report, the product is an exceptional piece of legal research with solid documentation to support its conclusions. So as I write this introduction to my page on this website, the ball is, as they say, in the other court awaiting the next step by the City of New Smyrna Beach Commission. As always, our group will be monitoring their actions closely and keeping you updated on the Anglers Club page. Check back often to see how a small group of dedicated taxpayers can take on City Hall and WIN BIG!
Till next time, I remain,
Harvey T.R. Mitchell
PS: Keep tuned for periodic updates to my progress on the other projects. We can win these battles with your support. See the list on the Current Projects page.