At last night's City Commission meeting, the bid was reconsidered on the city-owned land adjacent to the Riverside Market that was awarded to taxi czar Jesse Gaddis for $15,500.
Without access to the land or an amendment to the city's parking requirements, owner Julian Siegel argued in his statement to the Fort Lauderdale City Commission that he would not be able to comply with regulations and would have to consider closing.
"This market is an asset to the neighborhood," Siegel said. "People have moved to the neighborhood because of Riverside Market."
Riverside supporters blanketed the audience, dressed in yellow T-shirts that read "Save Riverside Market," and "Support Local Business."
Those who spoke on behalf of the restaurant said it "increased property values," and "you cannot put a price on what makes a community feel good."
The motion to reconsider the bid was based on two factors: The bid date listed in papers was incorrect, and what should have been a sealed bid process was rather open.
There was no scenario during the meeting that would have led to Riverside obtaining the land, said Mayor John "Jack" Seiler. "Yet we are concerned about the process. No one should know who's bidding and what the bid is," he said. "We have to reconsider this so we don't go down this path again."
Siegel said Victor Volpe of the city's real estate office suggested Siegel lobby the City Commission regarding his need for the land, providing an email from Volpe with the phone numbers and emails of members of the commission.
"He said that Gaddis lobbies the commission and that I should too," said Siegel. Volpe was not present at last night's meeting.
Members of the commission were emphatic that they had never been lobbied by Gaddis or anyone else.
Pat Hayes, who represented Gaddis Family Foundation, said the company needs the land for parking, documenting with photos to illuminate the possibility of more accidents without a place for visitors and taxis to park.
Her testimony confirmed a loose process in Gaddis' obtaining the land. "I put in the bid at 3:30 p.m. and was told there were no other bids," she said -- information, that, in a sealed bid process, she would not have been privy to.
A bid package language reads that city land goes to the "best offer," not "highest," though Seiler clarified that "our policy is to take highest offer."
The fate of the land will be determined on April 17. The bid may be tossed and the city will open the bidding process again. Or it may grant Siegel a parking reduction and still award the land to Gaddis. In the meantime, the committee says it will investigate the handling of the land sale and consider amending the procedure for the future.
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