Wealthy donors Wayne Huizenga Jr. and Jeff Vinik lobbied then-Gov. Rick Scott for the lucrative tax break — and won it. Poorer communities lost out.
by Justin Elliott, Jeff Ernsthausen and Kyle Edwards Nov. 14, 5 a.m. EST
"The Rybovich superyacht marina lies on the West Palm Beach, Florida, waterfront, a short drive north from Mar-a-Lago. Superyachts, floating mansions that can stretch more than 300 feet and cost over $100 million, are serviced at the marina, and their owners enjoy Rybovich’s luxury resort amenities. Its Instagram account offers a glimpse into the rarefied world of the global 0.1% — as one post puts it, “What’s better than owning a yacht, owning a yacht with a helicopter of course!”
Rybovich owner Wayne Huizenga Jr., son of the Waste Management and Blockbuster video billionaire Wayne Huizenga Sr., has long planned to build luxury apartment towers on the site, part of a development dubbed Marina Village.
Those planned towers, and the superyacht marina itself, are now in an area designated as an opportunity zone under President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax code overhaul, qualifying them for a tax break program that is supposed to help the poor.
Then-Florida Gov. Rick Scott bestowed the tax break on the marina after a direct appeal from Huizenga Jr., according to a 2018 letter Huizenga Jr. wrote that was obtained by ProPublica. Huizenga and his family have been major donors to Scott. Even though the opportunity zone program is supposed to subsidize only new investment, Huizenga cited the already-planned Marina Village in his appeal to Scott.
Noting the “significant private sector investment that is poised to take place,” Huizenga wrote, “This project has been planned for some time as part of the larger Marina Village initiative which incorporates the Rybovich working waterfront marina.”
The state of Florida, based on an analysis of unemployment and poverty rates, had not originally intended to pick the census tract containing the superyacht marina for the program. But those plans changed in response to Huizenga’s lobbying, according to documents from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity obtained by ProPublica.
A little more than a week after the Huizenga letter, Scott announced his opportunity zone picks, which included the Rybovich marina area. At the same time, Scott rejected other, poorer tracts that the city of West Palm Beach had asked to be named opportunity zones.
Two other Scott donors, both billionaires, also benefit: Jorge Pérez, the Related Group chairman and CEO known as the condo king of South Florida; and Stephen Ross, a prominent Trump fundraiser, real estate magnate, and Miami Dolphins and Equinox gym part-owner. Ross’ Related Companies owns a quarter of Related Group, which is Rybovich’s partner on the planned Marina Village development..."
Something similar happened locally. Quint Studer was allowed to build the
"community maritime park", which became a baseball field with none of the public amenities that were promised. Then he received an "enterprise zone" designation for his rental apartment complex, courtesy of Matt Gaetz. I'm tired of the people suffering because these jerks want donors more than they want to represent the people of this state.