It’s ‘high noon’ for the Ave Maria-Jackson Lab deal. There’s a new sheriff in town.
But are property owners in the town of Ave Maria, Florida paying attention?
They could be caught in the legal crossfire, in a battle to stop the use of millions of taxpayer dollars to fund the establishment of the controversial genetics lab in Ave Maria.
Legal maneuvers are taking place around them, but will Ave Maria property owners be invited to join the legal proceedings? After all, they are sitting in the middle of the Ave Maria-Jackson Lab battlefield.
Modern Taxation without Representation
The town of Ave Maria, built by millionaire pizza salesman, Tom Monaghan, and Barron Collier Companies, sits in a remote rural area of Eastern Collier County, which is part of the Everglades.
A tyrannical “Special District” was specially crafted for the Monaghan-Barron Collier team, as a Special Act of the Florida Legislature, which allows these powerful landowners to elect the Ave Maria Special District governing board, and control the votes. This means that the Special District government is allowed to tax the homeowners inside Ave Maria, without the homeowners having a vote. A modern case of taxation without representation. Ave Maria is known as “A Town without a Vote, Now and Forever“.
The constitutionality of this Special District, the way in which it was presented to property owners, along with the amended town covenants (Collier County Clerk of the Circuit Court filing date November 15, 2007) are pending issues– which could end up in a firestorm of litigation.
Are the financial maneuverings behind the Ave Maria real estate experiment the ‘smoking gun’ of the Jackson Lab deal?
Changes that could affect Ave Maria property owners
On Tuesday, November 9, 2010 the Collier County Board of County Commissioners met. The agenda included an item concerning the super majority law (4/5th votes) required for changes in zoning. These changes in zoning could affect the land where a genetics facility, called the Jackson Lab, would be built in Ave Maria.
The Jackson Lab’s move to Ave Maria is a highly controversial proposal that could end up costing millions of taxpayer dollars– something which Collier County citizens overwhelmingly oppose, as evident through public petitions, public displays of opposition, as well as a Naples Daily News public poll, where 84% of responders said no, to ANY taxpayer funding for this lab venture. In addition, many Collier County citizens see the Jackson Lab proposal as nothing but a bailout of the Monaghan-Barron Collier Ave Maria real estate experiment.
Why is it an experiment? Tom Monaghan promoted Ave Maria as a “Catholic town” and as a “City of God”. He gave the town the most holy of Catholic names– Ave Maria, Hail Mary. This is why the overwhelming majority of residents in Ave Maria are Catholics.
Yet, Monaghan and leaders from Ave Maria University have embraced the proposed establishment of a Jackson Lab facility in Ave Maria. This is a contradiction, since the Jackson Lab is involved in the controversial world of Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research– which the Catholic Church considers a serious crime against innocent human life. This situation has caused the local bishop to publicly express his serious concerns about the Jackson Lab’s move to Ave Maria, and has questioned if the Jackson Lab should be considered authentic economic development.
And as far as the argument for economic development goes– why should taxpayers be expected to throw money at a tax-exempt non-profit lab involved in the fading world of Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research? Scientists are shifting their focus to Adult Stem Cell Research, based on impressive clinical results worldwide.
A “cluster of doubts”
Meanwhile, the so-called “biomedical cluster” that could one day be created around the proposed Ave Maria-Jackson Lab site appears to be mere puffery of approximations and speculations. There are no supporting teaching hospitals or research facilities anywhere near the rural town of Ave Maria, to support such a claim. There is also doubt that the Jackson Lab could attract such a cluster.
Á propos of the preceding information, here are two quotes from prominent businessmen, regarding the Ave Maria-Jackson Lab proposal:
“Beware: Scientists are very, very poor businessmen and will promise anything to have projects funded.” — Julius L. Pericola, Naples Daily News, May 31, 2010. (Pericola is a retired president of Bristol Laboratories in Syracuse, New York).
“Pericola is right on in recognizing the airy-fairy promises being made for this company. Wall Street is awash with venture capital for promising biotechnology projects. Let Jackson Lab get the money there if these venture capitalists feel it has something worthwhile to offer. “– Alvin E. Strack, Sr., Naples Daily News, June 2, 2010. (Strack is former director in the international division of Smith, Kline & French Labs–now Glaxo-SmithKline).
The only “cluster” that actually appears to be growing is a “cluster of doubts” about the Ave Maria-Jackson Lab deal, exarcerbated by suspicions looming over the fact that the public is being denied access to Jackson Lab documents connected to the Collier County deal. (See Naplesnews.com Oct. 11, 2010).
It’s ‘high noon’ in Ave Maria
It is important to note that, with the exception of this writer’s ‘voice in the wilderness’– Ave Maria residents have not voiced public opposition to the Jackson Lab’s move to Ave Maria, during the many months that the Ave Maria-Jackson Lab battle has been raging– and in spite of the bishop’s serious public concerns over the Jackson Lab’s involvement with Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research.
This absence of public expression is consistent with the history of silence in this remote town, under the control of Monaghan and Barron Collier.
But now that it’s ‘high noon’ for the Ave Maria-Jackson Lab deal, it will be interesting to see if any Ave Maria residents and property owners will now finally come out of their silence, based on personal monetary and legal concerns.
Arbitration– or an attempt to circumvent the law?
So, during Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners meeting, in a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Tom Henning dissenting, a decision was reached to hire an arbitrator, who would decide if, in fact, the super majority law would apply to changes in zoning.
Is this simply a brazen attempt to circumvent the law– in order to rush through the Ave Maria-Jackson Lab deal, as a taxpayer bailout of Tom Monaghan and Barron Collier Companies? Is this any different than the corporate bailouts coming out of Washington DC?
Indeed, it appears that the arbitration maneuver is a rush to reach a decision before December 14th, when the new commissioner for District 2, Georgia Hiller, will be voting on an amendment to the Ave Maria master plan for the Jackson Lab’s site on Oil Well Road. Hiller’s vote is a concern for those pushing the Jackson Lab deal. She is, essentially, the ‘new sheriff in town’.
A request for transparency
While Florida may be subject to Sunshine laws– a lot goes on underground, or one could say– underwater. This is where Georgia Hiller comes in. As Commissioner-Elect for District 2, she is already questioning what lies deep under the murky swamp of Eastern Collier County, and right underneath Ave Maria.
Case in point: I have been cc’d the following e-mail correspondence from Ms. Hiller, to Collier County attorney, Jeff Klatzkow.
Property owners in Ave Maria, and the public at large– take note:
From: Georgia Hiller
To: Klatzkow Jeff <JeffKlatzkow@colliergov.net>
Cc: Marielena de Stuart Montesino; Brock E. Dwight <Dwight.Brock@collierclerk.com>
Sent: Fri, Nov 12, 2010 9:35 am
Subject: Arbitration and Bond Validation
Good Morning Jeff,
1. Please provide the law as to what can be arbitrated in the State of Florida.
2. Specifically, where does the law allow for binding arbitration only interpreting a question of law where there has been no injury and therefore there is no ripeness?
3. Who are the parties to the proposed arbitration, and what are their respective positions?
4. Have the homeowners of Ave Maria been made a party/noticed since they will be clearly affected?
I want to be involved in this matter from the inception.
I question whether arbitration is the correct legal proceeding, given the issue.
As such, I don’t want to see public funds wasted on a proceeding that probably has no basis in law and should not and cannot be pursued.
I understand that the Bond Validation has been filed with the Clerk.
May I have an e-copy.
1. Who prepared the document and at whose direction?
2. Was the petition, as drafted, brought back to the BCC for approval, and if so when?
I have taken the liberty of copying Mrs. de Stuart Montesino, an Ave Maria homeowner, and the Clerk, with whom the Bond Validation has been filed.
Please forward my e-mail to Attorney Passidomo. I don’t have his address. I would appreciate his input on these questions also.
Please respond to each question by return e-mail, with answers under each question heading and copied to the three named above – Mrs. de Stuart Montesino, Clerk Brock and Attorney Passidomo.
Collier County Commissioner-Elect, District 2
Response from Jeff Klatzkow, Collier County Attorney
Attached Document 1: Letter from Nabors, Giblin & Nickerson to Jeff Klatzkow regarding $130,000,000 bond validation.
Attached Document 2: CLERK OF COURTS – COLLIER COUNTY, FL vs. THE STATE OF FLORIDA, ET AL. VALIDATION OF NOT EXCEEDING $130,000,000 IN AGGREGATE PRINCIPAL AMOUNT OF COLLIER COUNTY, FLORIDA CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT REVENUE BONDS, SERIES 2011
Marielena Montesino de Stuart writes for http://www.TheRomanCatholicWorld.com