Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Dear Robin,Rob, and RF owners,
We are fractional owners of two villas in RF and own a 50’ boat slip.We were just down in Bocas. The progress being made is incredible. You would all do handsprings to see the place being reborn! RF has involved the Smithsonian as an advisor on the project to ensure that the new down-scaled plans are of the highest eco standard.
Construction is up and running, employing only mostly local labor and with greatly improved community relations, and all the houses are starting to look great again as they clean up the project.
The marina is almost finished and is top quality…will be beautiful. So what Mr. Barker is barking about I am uncertain? Yes there has been a lot of negative PR but to continue to pass it along can't be helpful. What we need to pass along are the facts on how the project has changed!
We live in Africa and the delays and gov't. hurdles are no different in Panama than in any underdeveloped country. It seems clear to me, having worked in eco-tourism for 20 years and won many awards in that field, that RF is well on the way to rectifying the mistakes of the past and hopefully will address the assaults of ill informed media or media that is out of date in the near future.
The negative repercussions of emails like this only hurt all of us and make it harder for the RF guys to move forward. So I would like to encourage Mr. Barker to play a more positive role in the RF community and put out some positive info on the ‘new and improved Red Frog’ rather than circulating the old story.
Why RF was targeted from the beginning is unclear, but the malicious PR attacks on Pilar and co have not been answered publicly and that is not a good thing! Negative press like below (below meaning a letter which has not been posted because we do not have permission. - Ed) must be addressed and I understand that Dan Cranney is putting together a bullet point presentation on what RF is doing to conserve environment and adhere to eco guidelines which will be reviewed by the Smithsonian and put on the web. Then all this drivel will stop.
- Cherri Briggs
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Good afternoon from Red Frog 11.
We are being asked to quantify our price of $650,000 for Lot 11 with Marina Slip #27 .
PROPERTY: We found no comparable properties on Bastimentos so assembled the equivalent of a 'Comp' list (original attached) from the RFB web site on March 15th, 2009. The $650,000 Lot 11 Package (Titled Lot, House, Slip, Boat, Cart, Off Grid Plant, Furnishings etc.) is shown as a yellow circle. The Lot 11 Tortuga, by itself, is comparable at $439,000 on the blue line. Comparable Red Frog Listings are on the 'Special Re Launch Price' blue line. The assumed actual values, together with a WAG for Lot 11, are shown on the red line.
MARINA: The 'Marina' is presently under construction by 2 dozen workers. It appears to have top priority in terms of resources being consumed. The following graphics (original attached) were downloaded from the RFB web site on March 15th, 2009. They describe the present sales price of Red Frog Marina Slips and what will be delivered for that price. Although Slip Prices start at $104,359 we value Slip #27 (which is shown as a yellow circle) at $60,000.
Question: What are the associated costs of owning and maintaining a slip?
Answer: The Association dues (MOA) will start at approximately $100/month. The ultimate cost of this will largely depend on what Owners vote for.
Question: What is the type of ownership for a Marina slip?
Answer: We are currently working through the concession regulations in Panama to apportion the slips in some type of recorded title. However, if this is ultimately not possible, the developers will then organize an appropriate legal structure (i.e. Yacht Club) whereby each owner will become a member and will include their official rights to the boat slip being reserved in this agreement. The ownership will be for the slip and dock improvement. The water concession will be shared by all owners and Red Frog.
Question: When will the Marina be completed?
Answer: The projections are for Q2 2009.
Question: What amenities will the Marina include?
Answer: Electric services, Internet access, ice/vending machines, storage units, Harbor Master and staff, 24-hour full time security personnel, fueling and pumping facilities, free water use, restroom and shower facilities, maintenance services, fully stocked ship store with boating and sailing essentials, deli, bakery, smoothies and coffee shops.
Monday, March 9, 2009
Here is the main walkout plank at the beginnings of the project. This is looking from Isla Bastimentos out toward the mainland... South.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Wild Cane Island Reverse View
The Red Frog Beach project, located off the northwest coast of Panama in the Bocas del Toro archipelago, overcame its paralyzing 20-month strike last October when Pillar Panama chairman/president Joe Haley announced a settlement between Pillar Construction and the local workforce. Meanwhile, caught between the strike and a tightening global economy, Haley was forced to restructure his original partnership to save the project.The end result was a better capitalized group of investors and an invigorated Pillar Panama team as committed as ever in completing the development that calls for a 100-slip marina and marina village, luxury residence club and boutique hotel and spa.
Red Frog aerial view
According to Haley, 80 percent of the development is now controlled by many of the original clients who invested in the idyllic Red Frog Beach property located on Isla Bastimentos."Now we have a new beginning and we're stronger and healthier," adds Haley, who hails from Minnesota. "The last couple years were a huge learning experience for our partnership. What really resonates, though, is the power of many. We had over 400 clients and vendors come together and say, 'We won't let this project die.'"After revising 450-plus contracts, and making a lot of concessions and sacrifices, it's a new beginning for Red Frog Beach. Not only are we going to continue to develop in a responsible and sustainable manner, but we're galvanized by this huge new collective effort."
Phase I Construction - Red Frog Beach
For many of the early investors, this newfound energy is a welcome sight so their compelling eco-conscious lifestyle can finally come to fruition."Red Frog Beach is everything I envisioned as being paradise," says Chris Hahn, one of the early real estate investors-turned partners. "It's a really special, beautiful place on these islands. ... Panama's like Costa Rica 10-12 years, or Hawaii in the '50s."Red Frog Beach is a pristine stretch of property contiguous to a natural marine park with three miles of shoreline. Thus, Pillar Panama will leave approximately 70 percent of the 1,524-acre environmentally sensitive property untouched.Overall residential density is approved for an estimated 900 villas, condos and a luxury residence club being managed by industry leader Jim Whitteron of Spring Creek Partners. Ten of the villas are completed, priced on average at $575,000, with another 42 in construction. The fractional ownership properties are being sold in 1/10 shares.Most of Red Frog's infrastructure is completed and Haley projects the marina will be finished by early summer.
- Dan Cranney
The first resident who move in several years ago just turned 70 and has decided that, although he feels the project will reach completion, it will not be soon enough for he and his family to enjoy it. Too bad. It's a nice lot, #11 with great views, a great Tortuga model, and includes his cart, boat and slip along with the Panama corporation(s) used to hold these in. Contact Ron at email@example.com for more information. His asking price is $745,000. If we had the money we would consider the opportunity!
I am also told that there are limited opportunities to buy into the first phase at prices well below what they will be once the project really gears back up. Contact Dan Cranney at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell him Mick and Janis sent you.
- Mick @ Lot 11
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Now that we have been able to make this huge step forward, please understand that there are several processes that we need to work through before we can actually get back to work. These processes will take some time as we continue to work with the Labor Ministry and all past Pillar Construction employees. During that process, we will also start to slowly mobilize our operations team as well as work to complete the conversion process for those few remaining clients.
Again, we wish to express our great appreciation to you all once again for your tremendous patience! We will be able to provide more details on our next Conference Call on Tuesday October 28 at 3:00 pm CST. We will be sure to send another reminder for that call the week before with all of the call in numbers. So thanks again and we look forward to getting back to work and making this beautiful project a long term success!
Note: This was hinted at in the September conference call since it would have to be settled before new money would come into the project. This is a great step forward, and good news for Red Frog investors!
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Monday, June 30, 2008
We just received notice today from our legal team that the latest Panama Government Official Gazette that was published yesterday included the great news that the long-awaited Declaration of the Special Development Zone for Bocas Del Toro was finalized!
In the words from one of our team, "The declaration is for the Bocas Del Toro Province. Isla Bastimentos and the National Park are definitely included. Yes, it is a light in the tunnel. We still have a lot of work to do. Tomorrow I will go to Catastro to check on the next steps since they were waiting for this declaration too. Then I will go to Pronat to get the copy of map of the declared area. I know that Red Frog is included, but it is good to have a graphic view of the declared area."
So while this is just one step in the process, we are very happy to finally see it completed. Maybe all of those meetings with government officials have finally paid off. But as our attorney mentions above, we still have a long way to go in this process as there is definitely going to be a lot of internal government debate on all of the precise rules and regulations. Especially important to us all will be how they decide to value our various parcels of land. And from what we have heard, no one in the government is anxious to stick out their neck and make policy which will be criticized no matter what is decided. Some outside attorneys have speculated that the titling process could be pushed into the next administration (which starts September 2009). Let's hope not.
-Red Frog Team
Monday, May 19, 2008
Here is Mr. Hahn's e-mail message:
I wanted to take this opportunity to send a heart felt thanks to everyone again for not only taking time out of your busy schedules to attend the owners meeting, but for all your great input and participation at the meeting, which I think was the main reason for the meeting's success. I also wanted to make sure you all knew how much I appreciate all of your kind words and support that you have extended me over the last several weeks, because frankly I did not know if I made that clear enough at the meeting, because as you know I was very sleep deprived and exhausted.
The other main purpose of writing to you all is up until now I have basically been the face of the owners meeting if you will, and now that things are beginning to evolve into something much larger, I strongly feel that the new face going forward should be our designated owners group and newly formed committees, because it’s a team effort and it has grown well beyond my capacity to successfully manage and attend to all of the many moving parts and details that are required. For instance, I had over 30 emails and phone messages waiting for me when I got home Saturday from the meeting ranging from wanting my advice and/or information on a wide-range of topics from Residence Club to the owners meeting , which I am very happy to see and humbled by, because its important that everyone is well informed and is brought up to date on the events of the meeting, but frankly there is not enough time in the day for me to respond in a timely fashion and effectively communicate to you in a way that you all deserve. So with that said, going forward everything will be transitioned and channeled through the 6 and probably soon to be 7 member owners group, which will be primarily responsible for representing our fellow owners best interests, and to be a liaison between Pillar and the owners at large. Also, our newly formed committees will also be a valuable resource for all the clients/owners to utilize and assist as well. More details on the owners group and committees will be sent out shortly. Please keep in mind that I’m not suggesting that you can’t pick up the phone and call or email me or any of the other group members for that matter, we certainly all welcome that of course, but I think its vital going forward that we all have a system in place that eliminates any breakdown in communication that leads to misinformation or misunderstandings that unfortunately has been the case in the past, and also provides accurate information in a timely and efficient basis.
At this time, I would please ask everyone to be patient as far as receiving information on the meeting, the owners group is currently working very hard to dissect and organize the large amount of information that came out of the meeting. We will be sending out a very detailed email this week that will discuss the highlights and salient points from the meeting, and will be followed-up very soon with a breakdown of all the agenda questions that you all sent in, including Pillars responses. In the meantime, I would kindly ask that those owners that did attend the meeting to please reach out to those owners that could not make it and share with them your thoughts and feelings about the meeting if of course you feel compelled to do so.
In closing, I would like to say that all future correspondence and perspectives relating to RF business will be coming from a diverse group of your fellow owners, the owners group. This is obviously a very good thing, because it means that my original idea is developing into what I had envisioned, and that is, all of us owners/neighbors are starting to unite together in order to be part of the solution to not only protect our investments, but to find productive and constructive ways to realize and fulfill our dreams. What is even more exciting to me is that I think we have only scratched the surface, and that we are at the threshold of doing something very extraordinary and revolutionary, because what I personally took away from the meeting was that Pillar is now completely committed and willing to work with us owners in good faith, with transparency and accountability to do what it takes to make sure that Red Frog succeeds, and us in the process. Actions always speak louder that words, but I truly believe we have a real partnership with Pillar now.
Again, my many thanks to all of you that participated in the meeting, and making it possible for us to change our reality for the better, for not only ourselves, but for all of us collectively.
Your friend and neighbor,
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
You can have prescriptions sent down through mail forwarders. I have suppliments sent regularly. The pharmacy's are fairly well equiped and will probably have what you need. You just need to check the costs out when you get down here.
I had hoped that the laws for getting the medicines we need were a little more relaxed as I am told they are in Mexico. Sam says many drugs may be purchased over the counter that require a prescription in the US. In my research, I found a website from Panama Law that talks about this in more detail.
- Mick @ Lot 83
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Thanks to many of the owners who have contacted us recently after seeing my posts at http://redfrogblog.blogspot.com. Your input has made all the difference. Before we heard from you, we felt we were all alone out there; torn between sticking with it and wanting to see Red Frog succeed or getting our money out and moving on. We have decided to do the former.
Joe and Dan have been exceptional at explaining their position and our options; they have worked exceedingly hard at helping us find a solution to our unique situation. They were very good at making lemonade out of lemons!
At first we were not thrilled at having our dreams of a beach front villa wiped out. And fractional ownership was the furthest thing from our mind. We wanted to have our own place, decorate it like we wanted and rent it or not rent it out. That may still happen, but not until Phase I is completed. So our next question was, what do we really want?
We are now convinced that fractional is a good alternative for the short term. We will be able to visit to see if we even like living on Bastimentos, or if we really want to build that dream home on the Caribbean! Plus the host home could be done as early as the end of the year if the project starts back up. That certainly is a lot better than waiting possibly 2-3 more years for titling on our rights of possession lot so we can finance our villa (or worse, having to come up with 100% to build it!). If we don't like it, there is a good chance we can sell the fractional and get our money out that way.
For those of you naysayers, you probably think I have drunk the Kool-Aid. Those of you who are already onboard, you have probably come to the same conclusions we have and have made or are contemplating making a deal to get this project back on track. We believe this is the best solution for all of us; to get the project built. Good luck to everyone at the owners' meeting next month in Minneapolis. We will not be there. We are told the room is FULL! Most of the attendees I have communicated with are very positive about finding solutions. I think it will be a most enjoyable event!
If you have questions or concerns, e-mail me email@example.com!
Mick & Janis Lot 83
So my question is this, now that we have decided on a fractional ownership, which "permanent" 2 weeks should we choose? We told Joe we wanted a time when it is not raining... He laughed and asked us if we saw how green it is in Bocas, and if we ever considered how it got that way???
Seriously, we know it rains in Bocas. But some months are generally better than others, and we would like input on which weeks to choose. For now we have made a choice on our permanent 2 weeks and are happy with those (provided we get them) but wondered if others had considered this?
Here's what we've heard:
The rainy season is technically June-August and December—January; However, based on our data, there is a consistent amount of rainfall month to month (most of the rain in Bocas occurs at night). The daytime showers are typically “hard and fast.”
Here is a note from Ryan Bullock who has lived in Bocas for sometime:
May is a pretty good month. September/October/November are usually pretty dry months – although I think one of the biggest storms we had last year was in September.
Remember, during the “rainy season”, Bocas typically gets short “showers” that usually only last an hour or two. Many times, the clouds clear in the afternoon and create good beach weather. I think June/July is nesting season for some sea-turtle species, too…
Mick @ Lot 83
Sunday, April 20, 2008
If you have any doubts about the intentions of these guys, take my word for it, they have been very helpful in getting us repositioned with equity ownership instead of our promise to purchase contract.
Their expectation is that by restructuring the debt into equity, Red Frog can get funded and building can begin again. We are eager to see them get back to work!
Mick @ Lot 83
The article is about 1/3 of the way down the page AFTER the vegan article!
Here is an excerpt:
If you contemplate buying land in Panama, you should know about a unique feature of land ownership here know as “Rights of Possession”. There are in fact three types of “ownership”. There is titled land which is registered in the Public Registry. There is land owned by the Government and there is land for which, by virtue of having occupied it, a person has earned the “right to posses” it.
The history of this goes back to land reform which was instituted by Gen Omar Torrijos whose military dictatorship from 1968 to 1981 brought a number of social reforms. He introduced an agrarian land reform program which in essence stipulated “if you live on the land and work the land you have the right to possess it.
Rights of Possession are duly recorded and can be transferred to a third party including foreigners but it is the Ministry of Agriculture Agrarian Reform Offices, not the Public Registry, which records Rights of Possession on agricultural lands. The Directorate General of the Surveyor of the Ministry of Economy and Finance records island, beachfront and marine properties. The rest of the ROP's are not recorded.
There are two kinds of Rights of Possession:Those located in national lands subject to the jurisdiction of the Directorate General of the Surveyor of the Ministry of Economy and Finance. This type of ROP segregates into those subject to titled and those subject to an administrative concession (lease). The Rights of Possession subject to an administrative concession are beachfront, marine bottom and islands. Concessions are explained below.
Those located in agricultural land which have been allocated and transferred to the Department of the Agrarian Reform of the Ministry of Agriculture for the specific purposes to grant titles for agricultural use.
When it comes to trying to find out who possesses what the process can be tedious. An administrative system exists for the documentation and certification of ROP land. Employees of the regional offices of the Agrarian Reform, local Mayor's office, property tax office (Catastro), and justices of the peace (Corregidor) oversee and manage this system of documentation.
Mick @ Lot 83
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Let me start off by thanking everybody for your strong interest and support of the owners meeting on May 16th in Minneapolis. To date, we already have 32 owners confirmed to attend the meeting, with another 7 pending. Also, many of you offered to help with the meeting, which I appreciate very much, because we could really use your help and assistance in making this a successful meeting for all us owners.
First of all, we need two or three owners to put together the agenda for the meeting. I will be sending out an email shortly requesting that all owner’s summit questions and topics they would like answered and discussed. Those questions and topics will be sent directly to the owners responsible for compiling and organizing the agenda, and once completed, will be distributed to the owners and RFB prior to the meeting. We are also looking for a moderator/facilitator to help run and control the meeting. We would like to ask that owners either recommend someone you think would be a good candidate or yourself if you are interested in the job. After consulting a few other owners we determined that the ideal candidate should be an owner that is fine with not actively participating in the discussions. We feel it’s very important that this individual be neutral and impartial when moderating the meeting. Obviously the meeting will be comprised of many owners that have a wide-range of varying viewpoints, and we want every owner to have an opportunity to participate and feel completely comfortable in expressing their thoughts and opinions.
Lastly, there are many owners that would like to be at this meeting, but will not have an opportunity to join the rest of us, but it’s clear from their comments to me that they are very interested in knowing what is said and discussed at the meeting. We would like to hear from the owners what you feel would be the best method in providing them a summary of what takes place at the meeting, keeping in mind this is an 8 hour meeting. We are looking for ideas that are relatively simple, effective, efficient, and ideally does not cost money. There have already been some good suggestions tossed around. For instance, having RFB answer in writing all the agenda questions prior to the meeting and then distribute to all the owners after the meeting. Have a few people take notes … are there any stenographers or owners that know short-hand among us? Or maybe we do a combination of things to document the meeting? Please let us know your thoughts?
So please everyone give some thought and consideration to what I stated above, and please respond as soon as you can, because there are so many things that still need to come together and happen, and we don’t have a lot of time before the meeting is upon us. Also, would you please email your replies and suggestions to John Cloutier at firstname.lastname@example.org and please copy me on the email as well at email@example.com. John has been assisting me for some time now and was kind enough to volunteer and field the requests above. I would also like to acknowledge David Gramling’s efforts in taking care of the meeting location and hotel accommodations, which we will be sending information about real soon.
Thank you all very much in advance for helping out and assisting in putting together what I hope will be a productive and positive meeting for everyone.
I hope I am not out of line posting this message, but I think it deserves publication. All along, I have strongly supported the Red Frog project, but now we are not sure. We are interested in staying in touch with anyone who wants to discuss this.
Mick & Janis @ lot 83
Friday, April 4, 2008
I spoke with Sam Taliaferro and Paul McBride who have never heard of such a thing. Neither have other people who do business down there, so I am not sure this is fact.
I do know that the owners are having a meeting in Minneapolis in a month or so, and the Red Frog "Team" (now consisting of Scott and Joe) will also be attending.
- Mick @ lot 83
Monday, March 31, 2008
This would put to rest any ideas I had about why they haven't ended strike. My theory was that, while waiting for the second round of funding, Red Frog was smart in not settling the strike as they would have all these workers sittin around getting paid for doing nothing. Now it seems that this might be the case anyway.
Does anyone have any more information on this issue? I sure would be curious. If this is true, they are getting deeper into debt the longer the strike goes on.
Mick @ Lot 83
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
1) ROP LAND: It was a brief mention, but concerns some of us with Rights of Possession land. What I heard was, if titling doesn't happen by the time construction is completed on these lots, the owner will be forced to come up with the entire balance of the purchase price. THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE. We were promised from the start that the "sweeping" title would be in place before any building would be done on ROP land so that we could get financing. But it did not sound like that after yesterday's call. Not having title would also hurt resale value as well. Red Frog better figure out a way to finance this small portion of their property, otherwise they are going to lose those of us who have been supporting the project!!!
2) FINANCING: Did I hear right? They are going to qualify all buyers AFTER THE FACT? This is a lawsuit waiting to happen. They made these contracts in good faith that buyers would go through with the purchase. Now they are going to make everyone go back and qualify? And what happens... after 4 years... that circumstances change and people won't qualify now? Seems to me they should have done this BEFORE they went into any contract with buyers.
Don't get me wrong, I want this project to succeed, but I also want them to do what they promised us from the beginning. I'm sorry that the government is so slow at the titling process. But they should then give us the option to back out and get our money back, NOT offer us a fractional ownership.
If anyone is contemplating a lawsuit, please contact me by e-mail at mick@SFResidence.com. I am eager to see what people are thinking. Seems to me it might be a tactic to get out of the agreements since a lawsuit or lawsuits would only hurt the possibility of Red Frog getting more funding. It might be easier to pay everyone off who wants out and be done with it.
Mick @ Lot 83
Monday, March 17, 2008
1) Any lawsuit in the US would be moot since there are no assets being held there. All assets are in Panama so the lawsuit would have to start there. And apparently they take longer there than they do in the States.
2) A lawsuit in Panama would turn off any potential investors that might be interested in the project (the only hope we have of getting construction started back up). And then what would happen? Sell off the land? Given the current big project situation in Panama, there is nobody doing them right now, especially with the titling issues we have at Red Frog.
Tomorrow's conference call may or may not talk about this new development, but I thought it should be addressed here.
Mick @ Lot 83
Monday, March 3, 2008
- Mick @Lot 83
Monday, February 18, 2008
January's conference call did have some significant changes to the business structure and ownership of the partners but until the Rights of Possession land becomes titled, there will probably be no forward movement. They just can't get funding until they do.
So although I will attend the call, I expect it to be a snoozer!
Mick @ Lot 83
Friday, December 21, 2007
One point was well made in that the company (6 Diamonds) claims to have paid $4M for property that Red Frog has the rights to (and has won 2 court cases regarding this property already). However, no taxes were paid to Panama's government on that sale... 10% or $400,000. If they did buy it, then they are guilty of tax evasion. If they didn't really buy it, then this would explain why the taxes have never been paid.
The fact that this claim has expanded from the original land that was in dispute concerns me, as our beach front lot is still ROP land and could conceivably be drawn into this or some other lawsuit. If the ROP situation is not resolved by this summer, we may have a decision to make.
Mick @ Lot 83
Saturday, December 15, 2007
However, will combined problems of the strike, the mortgage "crisis" in the US and government corruption be too much to overcome? It certainly sounded like the timing of each affected the outcome of the others... that the financial partners were not coming to the table because of the strike delay... and the issue of ROP land turning out to be a bigger deal than originally thought.
Being an optimist about this project (and not really financially hurt by the strike delay, though our money is just sitting there earning nothing) I think perseverence will win out. But Joe's voice sounded tired and I am wondering how much more he can take.
The gist of the conference call was essentially what was said in the newsletter. The only really new thing was the fractional ownership option being introduced. It sounds like a good option for some of those people from whom I've heard that are having money problems and wonder if they should stay in. I don't think it will affect property values that much, if at all.
One thing I did notice was that Chris was not in attendance. At first I thought they were going to announce that he'd left the company. Happily, only his position has changed. I can only speculate that he was traveling, and this could have been the reason he did not participate in the call.
We will see if patience will win out!
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
It also explains in great detail what is required of tourists with regard to paperwork... which seems cumbersome, to say the least.
Immigration began enforcing this new law with a bang by sending out undercover patrols stopping tourists and demanding proof of legal immigration status. Most tourists do not know that Panama requires everyone over 18 years of age to possess positive identification and all foreigners must carry a passport, tourist card, immigration visa, residency carnet, or cedula (national ID card). Immigration arrested some tourists while allowing others to retrieve their papers and gave others strict warnings to always carry their ìpapersî. Other tourists denied re-entry to Panama because immigration border guards felt they had left and returned too many times...
Another excerpt says:
...It is against the law to overstay your tourist visa in every country. You can be subject to arrest and deported back to your country of origin. (Oh yeah? Not in the US. We offer them amnesty!) If you do over stay your visa and are not caught all is forgiven if you go to Immigration before leaving Panama and pay a fine of $275 for overstaying by 12 months or $300 for more than 12 months. Immigration gives you a document to show Immigration officers at the airport or border so you are legally free to go and return after 72 hours...
Read the entire article here.
Mick @ Lot 83
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
As Red Frog gears up for a January 1, 2008 resuming of work, several of the Northern California Red Frog owners have scheduled a get together in Marin County early in December. I'll post an update of what we discuss, if appropriate.
In the meantime, we are off to Hawaii for Thanksgiving (an expensive alternative to our Caribbean paradise!) where we are meeting friends and family at our Waikoloa Beach Resort luxury condominium! Gotta brush up on my surfing so I am ready for Panama when our villa is completed.
Mick @ Lot 83
Monday, October 29, 2007
I just responded to this same question from Bob Chirone and you can read my response to him below (which he asked if he could post to some blog and I consented).
But regarding your questions, Lot 13 is only framed up, no one is even close to living there. They were using this as an observation post. It was lot 34 that caused the problem and the owner was not living there – just a friend of his that was supervising the construction efforts of their own hired hands. The owner of 34 has been renting lot 48 which is where his family has been staying so no family has been evicted contrary to Ron’s overstated comments. Now, my comments to Bob…
Thank you for asking for clarification. Last week on a routine Suntracs inspection tour with the regional labor minister, the union was extremely upset to find that construction work was being done on a unit –specifically lot 34 – that we had already closed on (the owner was previously warned this construction would likely cause problems). Our feeling is that a current owner should be allowed to work on their home (since they had closed and had been issued a certificate of occupancy), but the labor union has the opposite view and was claiming that our construction company – Pillar Construction – was doing the work and that no construction work should be done, period.
Needless to say, our team of lawyers have been working on this case to get the illegal Suntracs workers off the project. I personally spent over an hour meeting with the Minister of Labor in Panama City, Minister Edwin Salamin, yesterday to get his support. He and his team of lawyers have been helpful in getting Suntracs out of the residential area (they were camped at 13 for one day – this home is only framed) and now off the entire property. By the way, my understanding is that only a friend of the owners was at the property when they were forced to shut down construction efforts. A family was not living there as Ron has reported. The police were there to make sure that this didn’t escalate into any violence like what has happened at Isla Viveros in the Pearl Islands.
But you can rest assured that we are working together to get this issue resolved and the bigger issue of getting the labor strike resolved once and for all. But as you can see from this example, they are not very reasonable people…
Mick @ Lot 83
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Monday, September 17, 2007
Here's a link to the article and also a link to the photos.
It was suggested by Scott Harris's source in Panama that we owners post comments to Sam's story on his blog. Let me be the first!
Mick@ Lot 83
Thursday, September 13, 2007
...front page of the newspaper yesterday announces that ANAM (the environmental protection agency) has fined Red Frog Beach Project $130,000 for their behavior with regards to the environment and ANAM rules and regulations. They are also laying out some guidelines for the future development, calling for a section of the project to be used for
reforestation, and up to 25 hectares to be devoted to green or undeveloped areas.
This apparently is OLD news from last year and one can only imagine why this showed up in Wednesday's paper. Once again I went to the source and asked Scott to respond:
The report on the meeting held on September 29 of 2006 analyzes and features a chart containing the project’s mitigation and control measures in order to verify compliance and the submittal of evidence from the data obtained from the inspection and follow-up report presented by the company, and documents the following possible non-performances:
- Verification of the 25-ha-conservation zone contemplated as a measure for compensating the felling that would result from the construction of the new infrastructure
- Domestic waste management: waste from workers’ food lied all over the soil of the project, and certain findings (animals’ tracks) lead to think that wild animals may be getting used to eating processed food
- The temporary solid waste dumping site was not adequate
- Collapsed sediment meshes
- The complex’s artificial lighting poses a risk to turtle nesting activities typical of the region
The Regional Environmental Administration of Bocas del Toro conducted another inspection on January 25 of 2007 at the request of the company through a proposal of evidence.
The Technical Report resulting from such inspection states that the non-performances are not generating findings and so there are no damages to the environment. Likewise, such report points out that the measures related to by-pass channels and temporary mounds of earth have been replaced by other more effective measures intended to contain sedimentation, as is the case of geotextile mesh barriers, which invalidate the deshredding force of rain impact on removed soil, covering them with plastics. The report also indicates that stake-supported barriers composed of hay bales and meshes were placed in construction areas, intended to control flow of sediments to the natural drain lines existing in the project area. The report concludes that the developer has been able to reduce sediment contamination of sea.
So clearly we are doing our best to protect the environment. While our guys aren’t perfect by any means, they really do a pretty good job. ANAM has just been trying to find other issues. In fact, instead of saying do this or do that to protect the environment, they basically are asking for Plans, reports, and monitoring programs, that’s it!
And I don't know if saw it but there was another article in the newspaper where Mr. Milciades Concepción, Chairman in the assembly for Environmental Matters, made some comments regarding ANAM being irresponsible and unprofessional in most of the cases. Obviously Ligia Castro (head of Catastro) came out to defend ANAM. Milciades is without a doubt referring to the Red Frog issue.
So there you have it, we will appeal the fine and keep on protecting the environment which is what we want to do.
- Scott Harris
Monday, September 10, 2007
Rumor 2: Wait! No, that 's not the story. Red Frog is spreading the rumors themselves so we all bail out, and then when the strike is over, they will be able to sell the lots and villas back at much higher market rates thus making even more money!
Those are pretty good, but how about this? NONE OF THEM ARE TRUE!
Scott is getting tired (as am I) of going over the same issues again and again. Here are his responses below one last time. Questions are from Jake's Red Frog Beach Forum. His responses are in CAPS below:
"...reports that there were 3 investor-types on the grounds with some of the RFB principals the other day. So they're working on it!" TRUE BUT NO MYSTERY HERE, JUST AS EXPLAINED IN THE NEWSLETTER, WE HAVE MANY VERY INTERESTED PARTIES AND WE ARE WORKING WITH THEM ALL TO DECIDE WHO WE ULTIMATELY WANT TO USE...
"...one of the posters says they have significant debt, unlike what we've been told. He used the term "severe cash crisis." WE HAVE LESS THAN 10% DEBT TO EQUITY SO THIS INFORMATION IS FALSE...
"Scott says they're not out of money; maybe he's just answering the question literally. I've also heard stories that they're not maintaining the villas that are under construction and vines are growing all over them and the mold is a real problem and isn't being taken care of because of the cost cutting." NOT TRUE ONCE AGAIN, WE HAVE PEOPLE ON THE GROUND WHO ARE IN CHARGE OF MAINTAINING THE VILLAS. ANY MOLD ISSUES THAT COME UP WILL BE REPLACED AS EVERYONE HAS A WARRANTY...
So what does this tell you? Either Red Frog is lying... If so, then why even ask them what's going on? If Red Frog isn't lying, then others are. And if anyone wants to believe either of the other 2 rumors I posted above, feel free to use them as your own. As for me, I want them to get back to work and finish my villa so I can spend some quality time on the Caribbean!
Sunday, September 9, 2007
It's been a good ride, but it seems that Jake's Red Frog Beach Forum is the preferred place to speculate and spread rumors, so I am going back to my day job!
I only started this forum because there were so many stories going around after Ron closed his blog that I wanted to get the information out. But it seems people like to live in high drama around the Red Frog Project on the other blog; I'm just not one of them.
Either I am in or I am out. Right now I am in and supporting the project! We all have a lot to lose if the project fails, and I am not going to help it do so by spreading rumors, speculations or lies.
So for that reason, I'm closing up shop effective tomorrow evening. Thanks for all of you who participated.
Mick @ Lot 83
Saturday, September 8, 2007
GOOD! They need a construction partner, and I see the fact that a US based company wanting to get in the mix is a good sign. I am going to do more investigation on the Gates construction company, but I take this as a positive step.
Of course, if you read the blog regularly, you know how I feel about the alliance with Sam Taliaferro and Paul McBride of Prima Panama. I think this is a wise step and may have had something to do with the decision to bring in another construction parter.
After my last post about my Paul McBride call, but they were scheduled to have another conference call later in that week with Red Frog. I have not heard how that went, though I did get a voice mail from Sam. We have yet to connect.
I was told after their trip to Red Frog that something would be posted about it on their Prima Panama Blog. I have seen nothing yet.
Rumors... we have tried to dispel some of them here, but the latest ones on Red Frog Beach Forum are just malicious. Packing up hard drives and shipping them back to the US? They moved offices in Bocas, and Scott shipped home a hard drive with contracts on it to avoid shipping the whole computer!
I suggest anyone with concerns e-mail Scott Harris first. If you don't want to submit your question directly for some reason, send it to me and I will pose it as my own.
I have a nephew of a good friend whose parents own a resort on the Pacific side of Panama called Mangofish Resort and is now for sale with a price tag of $10M. He visited Red Frog before construction began and was offered some of the land before Joe and the boys purchased. He has some strong ideas about what is going on and will be in Bocas for the festival. Perhaps I can get him to share his thoughts when he gets back.
As hint at, only a certain amount of work can be done to maintain the structures before it is considered contruction. Paul McBride said they have a crew that is busy "beating back the rain forest" which, as you know if you have seen the sprouting fence posts, can be pervasive.
Legal and Financial:
Sounds like the strike is nearing an end, but they always try and make it sound like that. At least this time the ROP issue was addressed. What they said here is exactly what they reported to me in an e-mail, so I believe it is the government that is holding up this process.
The land dispute becomes clearer now. It was my belief from the beginning that Red Frog being sued in the US seemed odd. I'm glad they took the time to explain this incident a little better. Hopefully we will prevail, but with the current judicial system, who knows? And it means more money that can not be spent on construction.
I spoke in an earlier post about the Florida bank who has visited Red Frog to hopefully provide more traditional financing as we find here in the US. That would put some of the current home owners at ease as they go into the final phases of construction.
I am looking forward to my next trip to Panama and intend on making EJ show me the new "secret spot" next time I'm there. As soon as Janis gets her passport, I want to book a trip so we can see the project first hand and stay in a Tortuga... the model we "reserved" for our beach front lot.
Mick @ Lot 83
Sunday, September 2, 2007
I don't want to bad mouth your investment, but there were problems from the onset. I met the first manager in Bocas for the project named Neil Sanders, when he first arrived in Bocas and we had a casual conversation. I had already been working here on a smaller project of mine for over a year and have lived and worked in the tropics before. I knew what difficulties they were facing in developing in a rain forest area with little or no infrastructure. Scott's reply: Neil turned out NOT to be the expert that he sold himself as.
One of the first things that caught my attention was the true lack of understanding in the original groundwork. For example, he said that each of the houses would have a pool. I asked what type of rain catchment system they were going to use? The answer was none! To build several hundred homes with a typical water consumption of 50 gallons per person per day (not including the pool) and to depend on the ground water in that area to supply this was probably not reasonable. If we had cachment system – we would have needed over 400,000 gallons of storage which would have required a massive investment in tanks and still we would have had poor water quality vs. 30,000 gallon storage tank with high quality ground water that we have obtained through ground well systems.
You probably don't know this, but I had walked that property a year before there was a sale to Red Frog and I had a pretty good idea what water supplies were there. One of the major limited forces of the Mayan Empire was water. The major water source for the project is to be the large spring on the property. I don't know if a hydrologist had ever been called in to give a true capacity reading on that spring. Scott's reply: He is right when he says that spring wouldn’t be enough. Hydrologists have determined the number of wells we will need as the project grows. And most of that water is coming through aquafurs from the mainland and under the water out to these islands.
The ownership of the spring was also in a dispute with the adjoining land owner, Teddy Bendiberg (who had some documents, not conclusive ones, but enough to not make Red Frog the owner either). He also had previous use rights to the springs and those I have for my Red Frog lots as well. Those rights may be enough to give him continued use of the springs (like an easement). This means Red Frog does not control the primary water source for the project. Scott's reply: Teddy claimed he bought these rights from the former owner who has always contested this claim - [as I explained above] we have total control of the water sources.
I also heard a water shortage shut the project down or at least curtailed many water dependent activities (concrete production) for a while this year. Scott's reply: Totally false.
I'm a biologist by trade and worked for the government in the Federated States of Micronesia. There I conducted Environmental Impact Studies and I have a good understanding of what puts the breaks on a studies approval (it seems to be similar in Panama). I remember this project being started without the EIS being completed (I don't know if that has anything to do with the withdrawal of the promised golf course from the project at this time). Every promise not met erodes the buyers' confidence in the project as you are well aware. Scott's reply: His project and ours started at the same time, yet he does not have a good enough understanding to get his approval after 3 years! Our first phases we started with temporary approvals, and we haven’t done anything in the EIS phase II area except securtity roads.
Also, I was at a meeting with the ministers Economy and Finance for Panama (who were in control of the Rights of Possession lands) when Red Frog came to them. I was in the meeting scheduled just before Red Frog. We were asking for the same thing they should have asked for from the beginning (a year before)..."can we definitively Title this land or not and what will the cost be?" We got no real answer except to go for a concession to be prepared if and when Titling occurs. The Solarte Project got themselves into trouble because of many things, but one of the biggies was to promise what they could not deliver. Today, you are aware they [SOLARTE] are in a class action lawsuit with the owners [of Red Frog], who may eventually take over the project from the developer (who knows). I believe Red Frog promised so much in its marketing campaign that they were NOT sure they could deliver and that has come back to bite them in some areas. Scott's reply: We never promised this only have said that we will work hard at obtaining all of our amenities and we have already been successful in step one of the titling process which was to lobby for law 2 – which we now have - and now can get it titled, just takes time. We ACT not talk.
I was also in the Red Frog project with other local realtor's once and one of the marketing team. They showed us a new Villa being completed (the first one) and the marketing guy said, "we had a little problem with this one. It was over engineered...too much steel in it, but we now have that under control for the next one". A project with this much capital had its architects "over engineer" the first house? That doesn't instill much confidence in the overall project. Scott's reply: When you start first few houses of a massive project there are variations that you can’t plan for until you begin including supply chain issues, soil, transport, etc. that you have to learn your way into the right design protocol.
So when I say we use them as an example I don't mean on every point. But I told the project I'm now working with that I could only sell their project if they got all of their permits, EIS, concessions done first so we know we can deliver what we promise. They have taken two years to get to the point where they can start to sell by doing this, but everyone I talk to about the project is very happy to hear that this will be done before they buy. As I said earlier, the EIS may be approved this week and the master plan is only waiting for that to occur to also be approved, I understand from the developers.
Red Frog was a huge under taking and its progress is not to be over looked, but I feel an equal amount of pre-planning (by experienced developers in the tropics...you may have had some and I may be talking out of my hat here) and marketing would have been a better. It has a great marketing organization! Scott's reply: His only correct statement.
Mick @ Lot 83