City Officials Ask if Port Deal Smells
by Jeremy Morrison
City officials look like they’re going to take it slow on a potential boat manufacturing facility at the Port of Pensacola. They’re not sure everything smells quite right. Or, will smell quite right if South Florida-based Streamline Boats — which uses chemicals in its manufacturing process — is granted a lease at the port.
“Before we move forward we probably need to go to Miami and investigate firsthand,” Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson told city council members.
Streamline, which has a facility based in Hialeah, is looking to lease two parcels at the city’s downtown port — warehouses number 9 and 10, which former tenant Deepflex bailed on — and use them for manufacturing boats. The 10-year lease, with up to 40-years of renewal options, would begin at $127,875 and increase incrementally over the years; it would also entail the company constructing boat slips and a launch, which the city would have some use of.
City council was slated to make a decision on a draft lease Thursday, but Mayor Robinson threw the topic on the table for a deeper discussion, acknowledging concerns that have been raised about the deal, most notably about the possibility for Streamline’s operations, which involve the use of the chemical Styrene, to stink up downtown.
“I do fully believe the smell issue can be a compatibility issue for the city of Pensacola,” Robinson said, referencing issues downtown long faced prior to relocating the wastewater treatment facility that use to neighbor city hall.
Council members appeared to share this concern about the potential for foul odors. Several said they’d received calls from concerned constituents.
“The word that got my attention more than any other word was ‘odor,’” said Councilman P.C. Wu., also nodding to the former wastewater facility, so-called Ol’ Stinky. “The last thing I thought we ought to do was bring something downtown that would smell.”
“I think that there needs to be more vetting of the company,” said Councilwoman Sherri Myers.
Downtown business owners also voiced concerns.
Tosh Belsinger, co-owner of the Lee House, located across Bayfront Parkway from the port, said that she was concerned the smell would negatively impact her business, which includes hosting outdoor events such as weddings. She suggested the city look more closely at Streamline’s process prior to signing any leases.
“Just to understand more about the odor,” she said, “as it many effect downtown businesses.”
Terry Horne, executive director of CivicCon Center for Center Engagement, also advised caution — “I just want to suggest that the council not hurry on this matter” — and stressed the port’s relationship with downtown.
“It’s a short distance to the core downtown,” Horne pointed out.
Will Dunaway, an attorney representing local businessman and downtown property owner Quint Studer, urged council to formalize any environmental elements into a lease, and also suggested Streamline be further dug into.
“We do think this requires more careful consideration and vetting,” Dunaway said. “Knowing the background of the company and their ability to meet this lease is very important for the community.”
Dr. Gloria Horning, a member of the city’s Environmental Advisory Board, brought up another issue with this deal: The company signing the lease with the city would be Streamline Boats of Northwest Florida, an LLC based in Pensacola and connected with South Palafox Properties, a company that formerly operated a landfill in the Wedgewood community that was closed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for environmental violations.
“We know South Palafox has not been a good steward to Escambia County, and I don’t think they will be for the city of Pensacola,” Horning said. “Please, please put this under a magnifying glass.”
Councilman Andy Terhaar said he would feel more comfortable signing a lease directly with the Hialeah-based company, as opposed to the locally-based LLC.
“It’s easy for them to just walk away from something,” he said.
Local real estate broker Michael Carro told city council that the boat manufacturing company is willing to have language addressing any concerns such as odor written into the lease, and said that the city should visit the Hialeah facilty.
“They have a lot of other neighbors with no complaints right now,” Carro said.
Mayor Robinson told council that someone with the city would be visiting Hialeah soon, joking the trip may mean a coronavirus-quarantine stint upon return — “we’re tying to draw straws to see who has to go” — and said something would likely be brought back to council in July.