Lake Authority interviews the Croys for second time

After meeting with representatives of The Croy Group last July the Grady County Lake Authority scheduled a second meeting this week to further discuss contracting with the company to assist the county in the development of the Tired Creek Lake project.
In addition to the authority members, which included Chairman Lee Gainous, Vice Chairman LaDon Toole, Edgar B. Smith III, Travis Bryant, Jeff Brown, Ray Prince and Randolph Wind, the members of the Grady County Board of Commissioners also sat in on the meeting held at the courthouse Monday morning.
Others in attendance were Grady County Lake Authority Executive Director Mike Binion and Grady County Administrator Carlos Tobar.
Steve and Stacy Croy made a more detailed presentation of the scope of services their firm could provide the county as the lake authority continues its work on developing a strategic plan for the development of the property around the 960-acre lake.
“You have an asset out there. A ruby, a diamond, but unless you uncover it and take advantage of that it’s just another stone,” Stacy Croy told members of the lake authority and county commission. “We need to take advantage of it and do it in a way that makes all of us happy,” he added.
Stacy Croy said it would be a “process and not a sprint” and he said that additional money would have to be spent.
Stacy Croy also said he and his brother hoped everyone would leave the meeting with all of their questions asked and with no indecision.
“Sunshine is the best disinfectant that God ever gave us. We want to throw our ticket out there, but time is money and like everything else the clock is ticking. We hope to get the chance to work with y’all,” Stacy Croy of Grady County said before introducing his brother to continue the presentation.
Steve Croy said The Croy Group could offer the authority and the county services that no other single firm could bring “under one umbrella.”
Steve Croy also suggested the real estate housing market is heating up so the county needed to move quickly to avoid another downturn in the real estate market.
As a former member of the Jekyll Island Authority, Steve Croy said there are similarities between the development of Tired Creek Lake and the redevelopment of Jekyll Island. “The only difference is you don’t have the state budget to work with,” Croy said.
To be able to successfully market high value raw land Steve Croy said it would be critical to “create a buzz” about the project as well as to create a sense of urgency. To do otherwise, Croy predicted the project’s development could linger for years.
Steve Croy said it was a “no-brainer” that the property around the lake would have to be zoned and said it should be zoned as a planned unit development or PUD.
Steve Croy said that zoning provided certainty that developers demand and he predicted it would be difficult to attract developers to invest in property that is not zoned.
One of the first things to do, according to Steve Croy, is determine the value of the county’s property around the lake. “Right now nobody knows and if I asked everyone in this room would come up with as many answers as there are people,” Steve Croy said.
Grady County commissioners have expressed a desire to move forward with development of the lake in advance of the principal payments on bonds issued for the construction of the lake begin to come due in 2019.
Steve Croy told county leaders Monday that even if work began today it would be pushing it to begin developing the property by then. His best guess was that even if the property was ready to market the soonest lots could begin to be sold would be 18 months.
Lake authority member Travis Bryant suggested the true value of the project was the perpetuity of development on the tax rolls. “My great-grandchildren will benefit from the taxes paid on the property that is developed around this lake,” Bryant said.
Steve Croy shared some successes and challenges he has faced during his real estate career in development over the course of the nearly two hour meeting.
During the discussion the subject of an apparent conflict of interest was briefly discussed. Stacy Croy is the husband of Grady County Clerk Carrie Kines Cory. Steve Croy said that Stacy’s primary involvement in The Croy Group is to “bird-dog” projects and he said it was his brother who had made him aware of the Tired Creek Lake project. “At a lot of our board meetings Steve would say this Tired Creek Lake project would not only be good for our hometown, but would be a good project to add to our list,” Steve Croy said.
According to Steve Croy, if the county were to contract with The Croy Group to assist in development of the lake project Stacy’s role would be minimal. “You’d be seeing a lot of me,” Steve Croy said.
Grady County Commissioner T.D. David, who broached the subject, said the matter would have to be addressed and discussed further. “We must avoid the appearance of nepotism or whatever term we may use. We can talk about that later. It’s just something the public should be aware of and that we know it needs to be addressed,” David said.
“Absolutely,” said Steve Croy, who shared with county officials how he had navigated potential conflicts throughout his career. According to Steve Croy, he will be closing a half million dollar real estate transaction next week serving as a broker representing the Bryan County Development Authority, of which he is a member and former chairman.
“I understand conflict law very well and gratuity law very well. It would be unfair to us and to you all if this is allowed to discredit us or disqualify us from working for you on this project,” Steve Croy said.
Lake Authority Chairman Lee Gainous pressed Steve Croy to put into writing a proposed scope of work and the fees that would be charged with the various aspects of the proposal.
Steve Croy said he did not work by the hour like attorneys or accountants and declined to offer an estimate of his fees.
“At some point we are going to have to be able to tell the taxpayers what it will cost to hire you,” Commissioner David said.
Steve Croy suggested the lake authority enter into negotiations with the two highest qualified firms and negotiate the fees. “If you can’t negotiate a fee with one you drop down to your number two person,” he said.
Steve Croy also said it would be difficult to value his company’s work for the county. “If I can save you $2 to $3 million by helping you get a grant what would a fair fee for that be? If you didn’t have that option (of getting a grant) I know how much it would cost you. It would cost you $2 to $3 million,” Croy said.
“To say Croy Group would do it for X, I don’t think you are as well off as choosing two players and going into negotiations with them,” Steve Croy said.
Steve Croy said for the last 20-plus years he had worked to develop a relationship with members of the Republican Party and leadership in state government. “Those relationships were monetized when the big crash happened,” Steve Croy said.
He said his firm has the ability to help the county and lake authority in multiple areas. Steve Croy also said the project would benefit from “fresh eyes” and the government relations his firm can provide that could mean grant funding from the state or federal government for the project.
Grady County Commission Chairman Elwyn Childs asked Steve Croy if it was his opinion a real development could take place at the lake or if it was a “hit or miss” opportunity.
“You are in a great position, but with a great opportunity comes the possibility of a downside if not done correctly,” Steve Croy said. He said that if the authority and county develop a well thought-out and thorough plan and “stick to the plan” the lake project would be a success. Otherwise, he predicted it would be a failure.
Lake Authority Chairman Lee Gainous thanked the Croys for their presentation, but no action was taken Monday. According to Chairman Gainous, the authority will meet to decide how to proceed.
The lake authority has been charged by the county commission, through a joint resolution adopted last September, to develop a strategic plan for the development of the lake project. Chairman Gainous said that selecting a consultant to serve as a “quarterback” of the crafting and implementation of that plan is what the authority is focused on.
In addition to The Croy Group, the lake authority has previously interviewed representatives with Pond and Company, Landwise Advisors, and Real Estate InSync of Tallahassee.

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