It doesn’t pass the smell test.
It doesn’t even pass the “sewer sludge” smell test.
The past few weeks we’ve been treated to the spectacle of the City of Macclenny suing one of the largest real estate companies in the world.
Why? Because Rayonier balked at selling the city 114 acres north of the city limits for a “sludge field.” That’s where sewer plant waste is deposited and worked into the soil.
Now we’re looking at the prospect of throwing taxpayer funds down a rat hole seeing the lawsuit through, or alternatively, throwing taxpayer money down a rat hole pursuing an eminent domain condemnation of the property so it can be used as a sludge field.
So, why is Rayonier bent on defending itself? The company believes it was deceived (hornswoggled if you will) by a go-between real estate guy named Lewyn Boyette into a buy-sell agreement it never would have entered into had it known what the real plan was.
Did I mention the fact that Mr. Boyette was going to purchase the land for $399,000, yet the city was prepared to pay him a total of $479,000 for his trouble.
That’s a nice payday of about $80,000 for being a front man, or as Rayonier might put it, being the “man in front of the man behind the curtain.”
And the city’s defense so far is that neither Mr. Boyette nor city officials ever lied about what the intended use of the tract was supposed to be.
They just didn’t disclose it.
We used to do that a lot — when we were adolescents. We never actually lied when our parents believed we were one place, and we were actually somewhere else doing things we weren’t supposed to do.
They never asked afterward, and we never told them. See? No lies.
Rayonier insists Mr. Boyette indicated he intended to use the land for “recreation and family.” He now denies that.
The city is also standing behind a logic that goes something like this: it’s Rayonier’s fault for not asking, or neglecting to place a restriction on future land use for things like, oh, stinky sludge fields.
There’s probably a reason that Rayonier didn’t. I’m just guessing, but it might have been because they trusted that Mr. Boyette was “up front” when he discussed the potential unsolicited purchase of 114 acres off Steel Bridge Rd.
That is, if he said what they say he said.
See where this is going?
Many of us would feel a lot better if the City of Macclenny had launched an open and above board land search for its sludge field.
Sure, anyone living in proximity to a site is going to oppose it. It’s reasonable to assume, though, that with the thousands of acres of remote timber property in Baker County, a suitable site is available.
City Manager Gerald Dopson was quoted last week saying a sludge field is still an agriculture use, so Mr. Boyette’s representation isn’t that far off.
Really? Then why wasn’t he, and the city, up front about it?
And how about this? Who made the decision to in effect “hire” Mr. Boyette as the front man? Were other real estate people operating in the county considered — or notified? And who decided that $80,000 was a fair price for locating and securing the property?
Macclenny in its pleading argues the buy-sell pact is ironclad because there are no restrictions on future use of the land.
Perhaps a judge will agree, but a decision in the city’s favor won’t blow away the stench that surrounds the city’s behavior up to this point.