With a lawyer by his side, State Sen. Keith Perry took the floor of a Tuesday morning county commission meeting as “Citizen Perry” to make one request.
Perry, a Republican representing Florida’s 8th district, wants to buy the Camp McConnell Outdoor Center. The problem, however, is that Alachua County just bought it.
An old YMCA summer camp in Micanopy, Camp McConnell, was bought by the county at a June 22 auction with a $1.03 million bid and $237,000 down payment, Alachua County spokesperson Mark Sexton said.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Perry and his attorney, Patrice Boyes, told county commissioners that there were “inconsistencies” with how the county purchased the 210-acre outdoor property.
Perry said his intention with the property would be to restore it to its original purpose of being a children’s camp to get kids outside, though he did not provide any further specific details.
Boyes asked the board to consider requesting a 60-day extension past its July 22 contract deadline so there would be more time for Perry to negotiate an acquisition. She said the alternative would be legal action.
“Our only mechanism to stop the clock and stop the process is to ask for an injunction, and that’s something we would very reluctantly do,” Boyes said.
After meeting with county attorney Michele Lieberman, the board denied Perry’s offer, Sexton said.
“Anyone can sue anyone,” Sexton said. “The county has followed all applicable law in acquiring the Camp McConnell property.”
Sexton said after the meeting that many groups took interest in acquiring the camp at the auction, including the county, a group of former camp counselors and members from UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
The board directed county staff Tuesday to begin planning for public forums and an open house on the property sometime after August to get as much input from the public as possible in deciding how exactly to use the property going forward, Sexton said.
Sexton said the county looks forward to hearing from “Citizen Perry” on how the camp should be used recreationally, as well as other residents’ opinions.
“Nothing that happened yesterday is interrupting that process for us,” he said. “We are confident that there is no legal issue that will stop that.”
District I County Commissioner Mike Byerly said he doesn’t like negotiating with the threat of legal action hanging over everyone’s head.
“I don’t like negotiating under this kind of cloud,” he said.
District V County Commissioner Charles “Chuck” Chestnut raised issue with why Perry wants to acquire the camp when he wasn’t present at the June 22 auction.
“I don’t know why Senator Perry or his attorney was not there to participate in this process,” Chestnut said. “I don’t understand why at this late date — after the process has been done — that one would approach us about this and question our intentions.”