At the May 26th meeting of the Okeechobee County Board of County Commissioners, representatives of Guy Harvey Outpost and Elite Resorts presented a revised Master Site Plan for the redevelopment of the Okee-Tantie Park and Marina. The new vision is more ambitious than the original proposal and strives to create a sense of community within the development. In embracing the concept of community the development will also undertake a new name and will be called the “Lake Okeechobee Club” while still being marketed under the Guy Harvey Outpost brand.
The key elements of this new proposal sub-divides the site into three parcels, the Riverside Park, the Resort Core, and a newly incorporated Airboat Park. Both the Riverside Park site and the Airboat Park site are to remain county property and under a long term management lease agreement with Guy Harvey Outpost. The Resort Core will be sub-divided into approximately 450 lots consisting of vacation cottage lots, resort cottage lots, RV lots, and resort amenity areas.
With the project’s estimated budget increasing to over $ 41 Million dollars, Guy Harvey Outpost proposes to use the proceeds of the sale of the lodging lots to satisfy the financial constraints of the project. This will require Guy Harvey Outpost to purchase these areas from the county and then resell the developed lots. These new lots will then come onto the tax rolls of the county creating a long term revenue stream for the county.
The Riverside Park area will incorporate the existing marina basin and restaurant previously occupied by Lightsey Fish Co & Seafood. Capital improvements and continued maintenance will be the responsibility of Guy Harvey Outpost through the term of the 99-year lease. Upon the expiration of the lease, the property and all its improvements will be returned to the county unless a new lease is agreed upon.
The Airboat Park will be situated on the northern portion of the property and will remain a county property. A separate entrance to the Airboat Park is envisioned and improvements and maintenance will remain the responsibility of the county. The operation of airboats near the resort facility has been of major concern to all parties. Considering the challenge of noise issues associated with operating airboats near the resort community, Guy Harvey Outpost sought various alternatives to relocate the airboat launch but suitable sites were not available. One point of contention with this new proposal is the limiting of airboat operations from dawn to dusk. At the Commission meeting, representatives of the airboat community spoke out against placing limitations on the hour of operations and all three parties, the Commission, Guy Harvey Outpost representatives, and representatives of the airboat community all agreed to work together to address this issue.
The resort’s core will be the focal point of the property. The River Lodge will encompass approximately 20,000 square feet of space and will function as guest hospitality and reservations for the resort and house the River Grill-Angler’s Bar. A Marina Retail Village will function as the center piece of the marine basin with a dockmaster and bait shop, boat fueling facilities, outfitter shops, and a food court consisting of Tiki-style food trailers that will provide a wide selection of picnic style foods. General lodging in the core will consist of three unique communities that will include resort cottages, vacation cottages, and RV lots. These lodging lots will be the portion of the resort that will be available for purchase by the general public. As with your typical home owner association based communities, lot owners will be required to maintain the integrity of their lots and abide my resort rules and guidelines set forth by the developer in order to maintain the architectural integrity of the community and the resort as a whole.
Under this revised plan, the developer also proposed incorporating the facilities of C. Scott Driver Park into the over management and theme of the resort. Though the park would remain county property, Guy Harvey Outpost proposed upgrading the existing facilities and the construction of a small pedestrian and golf cart access road under the bridge over the Kissimmee River to provide a safe and seamless transition between the two properties. This they said would improve the overall appeal of both properties and attract more nationally recognized fishing tournaments and events to the Okeechobee area.
Under this new plan, the time table for construction has also been revised. The original plan as presented back in July of 2015 had Phase 1, consisting of a revitalized marina, redevelopment of the RV lots, and construction of resort amenities, to be available for a July 2017 opening. Under this new plan, the first phase would consist of a three year period in which cottage and RV lots would be pre-sold and the permitting process begun. With numerous Federal, State, and local agencies involved, the review and permitting approval process is anticipated to be quite lengthy. As plans are approved and permits issued, the build-out of the site would be accelerated.
As of the moment, this remains a Master Site Plan. With portions of the property now designated to be purchased from the county, additional State Statutes need to be addressed and followed. However with local public opinion generally in favor of the development of the Okee-Tanite property, and with the anticipated positive economic impact this development would bring to the community, it is likely that this project will continue to track forward and hopefully become a reality.