November 2009

November 23, 2009

New plan recycles bad idea

As one of the poorest urban counties in Florida, no area needs better businesses with higher paying jobs than Volusia.

So we're all waiting with bated breath for today, the day the Daytona Beach Chamber of Commerce rolls out its latest plan to build a stronger local economy.

If the proposal looks anything like it did a month ago, here's the best part: inviting the county's most influential business owners to pool their money and hire a high-profile recruiter to bring in higher-wage industries.

Tapping the resources -- both financial and intellectual -- of our most successful private leaders is a stroke of genius. They have contacts your average economic development director doesn't, to say nothing of accoutrements like private planes and gourmet caterers to woo interested executives.

Read more of this story here.

November 22, 2009

Developers seek land-use approvals before Hometown Democracy goes to voters

To develop his clients' vast land holdings, attorney Glenn Storch met with Volusia and Brevard county officials, bordering property owners and conservation groups.

They talked about roads. They talked about water. They discussed residential densities and jobs creation, debated how much land should be preserved, explored the impact on school construction planning. The company pulled together a panel discussion of national experts to critique their plans in public. "We have spent four years thinking about how to do the right thing, and we're only halfway there," Storch said recently.

Read more of this story here.

November 21, 2009

A New Urbanism: Neighborhoods linked by public transporation

Southwest Florida offers us sun, sea and nature. It’s such an enticing place to live that it’s easy to overlook what we no longer create: great towns and cities.

Our economy largely relies on serving newcomers, yet suddenly it’s not clear that the influx will continue even when the recession ends.

Suburban development patterns require affordable fuel and endless road expansions. The outlook for fuel is bleak, and how much wider can our roads get? The days of workers from Lehigh Acres making the daily drive to Collier County may never return.

Read more of this story here.

November 20, 2009

Firm wants more homes

The Viera Co. hopes to build another 11,000 homes across the central Space Coast by the end of 2025, pushing civilization farther west of Interstate 95.

Many of these households would cluster in four residential "villages" ranging from 1,000 to 1,500 acres in size. The first village slated for construction is located just south of the Health First hospital complex. Read more of this story here.

November 20, 2009

REITs preparing for potential flood of hotel foreclosures
Several REITs have notified the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission during the past two months of their intent to sell securities, among them: Chatham Lodging Trust on 4 November; Pebblebrook Hotel Trust on 9 October; and Chesapeake Lodging Trust on 28 September. Chatham is seeking to raise US$230 million; Pebblebrook wants US$402.5 million, and Chesapeake is seeking US$250 million. Read more of this story here.

November 19, 2009

Q3 South West Florida Market Reports
LoopNet's Q3 2009 Investment Market Reports for South West Florida and 63 other markets are now available. These reports cover office, industrial, retail and multifamily sales above $2.5 million.

In Q3, overall sales in South West Florida decreased 76% compared to the prior year. Over the last 12 months, the price per square foot for office property is down 9%, multifamily is down 28%, industrial is flat and retail is down 8%. Read more of this story here.

November 18, 2009

Workshop explores development option

NEW PORT RICHEY - After years of letting suburbia sprawl hither and yon across Pasco County, commissioners have begun charting a new course for growth.

That new course would pack more development into developed areas along U.S. 19, Little Road, State Road 54 and State Road 56. Next year, county officials will begin crafting rules aimed at concentrating growth in locations where roads and utilities are in place.

The effort to increase development in southern and western Pasco could rely on a program that discourages landowners in rural parts of the county from bringing suburbia into those areas.

To do that, commissioners are weighing a plan that would let developers boost the number of homes in favored areas by buying from landowners the rights to build. Read more of this story. Read more of this story here.

November 17, 2009

Pasco ready to blast off like a rocket

Pasco County is like a spaceship on the launch pad, about to blast off to explore new economic horizons, county officials and Pasco Economic Development Council (PEDC) leaders alike are convinced.

PEDC even launched its New Pasco campaign this year, in which businesses invest in the county's future, not unlike buying stock in a company, to position Pasco in a global economy.

County government here is going through a massive restructuring so it can coordinate better with PEDC and businesses.

Yes, Pasco in the 21st century is a far cry from what some critics regard as the county's Wild West era. Until the late 1970s, the county had no zoning or other regulations whatsoever to govern growth.  Read more of this story here.

November 16, 2009

Debate rages on extension of Urbana roads

The release of the Champaign Urbana Urbanized Area Transportation Study, or CUUATS, in November was met with some controversy.

The debate focused on whether Urbana should build roads that extend to the periphery or improve the existing central infrastructure.

Some people said they believe extending roads will increase sprawl instead of focusing on central development. Others said it will improve connectivity through the use of funds allocated for that purpose.

Eric Halvorsen, planner for CUUATS, said the projects outlined in the plan are intended to improve connectivity.

Planned improvements include an extension of Olympian Drive eastward to Rising Road and westward to U.S. Route 45; a northern extension of Lincoln Avenue to Olympian Drive; an eastern extension of Florida Avenue to IL-130; Windsor Road reconstruction between Philo Road and IL-130; and Curtis Road reconstruction between Rising Road and IL-130, according to the report. Read more of this story here.

November 16, 2009

Quail West Club now member-owned. Developers transfer ownership of club facilities to members free & clear
Quail West Development Company announced today that 97 percent of club members have approved the free and clear transfer of more than $20 million in combined club assets to the member-run Quail West Foundation. Quail West Golf & Country Club is one of the few debt-free clubs and communities in Southwest Florida. The turnover of foundation control and the asset transfer to the members was completed without any payment or cost to members.

“This is a great day for our club and an important milestone in ensuring the long-term stability and future success of our community,” said John Gamba, a foundation board member. “We are very pleased to have the overwhelming support of our members who realize that it is unprecedented, in today’s world, to be able to control our own destiny, have a debt-free club and enjoy the continued support of our developer.”  Gamba explained that four elected directors and the new development team worked very well together during the past few months to achieve this mutually beneficial agreement. As part of the turnover agreement, Quail West Development Company, a partnership of local businessmen who purchased the community in April of this year, will also provide substantial ongoing financial support to the foundation as they develop Quail West in the future.

“Quail West is an extraordinary community and being debt free positions us very well in today’s marketplace,” said Al Kessel, also a foundation board member. He explained that a $15 million clubhouse renovation program has recently been completed along with the addition of a brand new state-of-the-art golf maintenance facility. Quail West amenities include two 18-hole Arthur Hills signature golf courses, a 70,000-square-foot clubhouse featuring casual and fine dining facilities, ballroom, wine grotto, full-service spa and beauty salon, pro shops, fitness center, card room, eight red-clay tennis courts and a junior Olympic-sized solarium pool.

Quail West is a 1,180-acre, gated, master-planned community being developed by Quail West Development Company, which is also debt free. With 628 residences and approximately 700 acres of open space, Quail West, known for its sophisticated country club lifestyle and tranquility, captures the warmth and charm of Olde Florida’s rich architectural heritage.

Quail West is located east of I-75, one mile south of Bonita Beach Road. Take Exit 116 east (Bonita Beach Road). Turn right on Bonita Grande Drive and follow signs to the Sales and Information Center. To view a photo gallery and register for updates, visit For more information, call 239-592-1010.

November 16, 2009

Collier commissioners approve report, ask questions later

Every county and city in Florida has to guarantee a measure of service efficiency, known as level of service standards.

That includes roads, schools, cops, jails, libraries, emergency medical response, fire control and parks.

Much of that is paid for with impact fees — sums of money paid by developers to offset the effects of growth.

But with the economy being what it is, no one in Collier County is quite sure whether the level of service required should dictate the impact fee rate, or vice versa.

The issue came up last week when commissioners were reviewing the annual update and inventory report of county jails, libraries, parks and other services. Read more of this article here.

November 15, 2009

Comprehensive plan deadline issues loom

The outcome of a dispute over whether Marion County missed a mandatory deadline for implementing a key soil study likely depends on how far the critics want to push their cause.

A pair of northwest Marion residents argue that the government failed to complete a study of the local karst topography by January 2008, as outlined in the county's comprehensive land-use plan, or comp plan.

County officials counter that they have met the requirement through related water studies, and have used those to beef up safeguards for the local water supply.

The challenge posed by environmental activists Susan Woods and Karen Lynn Recio raises questions about what other provisions of the comp plan have or have not been met since the current edition was adopted in 2000. Read more of this story here.

November 14, 2009

Donald Trump sued over failed condo project
TAMPA, FL --It's still an empty plot of land near the Hillsborough River, but it was once the site for what many believed would be the Trump Tower of Tampa, a proposed 52-story high rise.

It's been years since the project failed but now at least 30 investors say they want their money back and they're suing the famous real estate mogul whose name was on the project, Donald Trump.

It sounded like a perfect place to Art Caruso and his wife. They were guaranteed a condo on the 32nd floor. Read more of this story here.

November 13, 2009

Maritime Park developers revise plan

The development team for the Community Maritime Park has revised the look of the park's site plan in a way it says will make the project more feasible to build and more marketable to retailers. Read more of this story here.

November 12, 2009

Jacksonville to seek stimulus funds for rail, bus hub

It's a project that could improve public transportation in Northeast Florida while also helping to bring back the historic LaVilla section of downtown Jacksonville.

For almost 20 years, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority and the Florida Department of Transportation have been working on a plan to create a regional transportation center that would house Amtrak, Greyhound, bus rapid transit and, possibly, commuter rail - all at the existing Prime Osborn Convention Center.

The idea has remained in the conceptual stage because of a lack of money, although the Florida Department of Transportation has spent more than $10 million in design and environmental studies over the years. Read more of this story here.

November 11, 2009

County gives green light to RV park development plan
The Citrus County Commission tonight gave the green light to an amendment to the county's Comprehensive Plan that will allow the River Lodge RV Resort to expand.

The vote was unanimous to approve the RV park's expansion.

Inverness attorney Clark Stillwell presened a comprehensive plan amendment for redesignation of approximately 170 acres from Industrial District, Low Intensity Coastal and Lakes District, and Public/Semi-Public Institutional District, to Recreational Vehicle Park and Coastal and Lakes Commercial at 13150 W. Foss Groves Path to the east of the existing River Lodge Resort RV Park near Inglis. Read more of this story here.

November 10, 2009

Hollywood farmers market owners were warned by city

For eight months Hollywood officials warned the owners of the Yellow Green Farmers Market that they couldn't hold their grand opening until permit violations were addressed.

Yet those warnings didn't stop the market's owners, who continued advertising the Nov. 8 opening of the outdoor venue where fresh fruits and vegetables were to be sold by hundreds of local vendors.

On Sunday, more than 1,000 potential customers poured into the market only to be turned around with notice that the market, at 1940 N. 30th Rd., was not yet cleared by the city for opening.

Read more of this story here.

November 9, 2009

As seas rise, planning starts

Sea level rise could put as much as 50-100 square miles of currently dry land - an area about 20-40 times the size of Tybee Island - under water in Georgia this century, a new report points out. But the study, published in Environmental Research Letters, indicates Georgia is in a better position than many states to plan for this inundation. That's because Georgia has a good portion of its low lying land - including most of the state's barrier islands - in conservation.

Read more of this story here.

November 7, 2009

Signs of recovery seen locally

The good news: A few signs of economic recovery turned up in Volusia County during the past three months.

The bad news: County officials believe residents face at least one more difficult year before an economic recovery takes hold here.

"Things are bottoming out," County Chairman Frank Bruno told a gathering of about 100 at the Daytona Beach International Airport Friday. "We'll have one more tough year, and that includes government, with more cuts occurring. Then things will pick up in 2011."  Read more of this article here.

November 6, 2009

Juvenile detention center proposal disturbs Florida-neighborhood residents
As a fight over the design of a new juvenile-detention center heats up, developers and city officials have quietly floated a proposal to move the city-run Youth Study Center from Gentilly to the former Florida public-housing site in the 9th Ward.

But no one has yet consulted Florida-neighborhood residents, who were stunned last week when they got wind of the idea. "They should have let us know. That's the least they could've done," said Lawrence Lyons, 63, who's lived 40 years on Bartholomew Street. His neatly painted house stands a block from the Florida: 127 pastel-colored townhouses, untouched and empty since Hurricane Katrina. Read more of this story here.

November 5, 2009

Florida lawmakers urged to go slow on transportation funding

Developers and local governments are urging lawmakers to proceed carefully as they consider new ways of funding transportation needs in large urban counties like Duval.

The state is studying a “mobility fee” as part of a major overhaul of growth-management laws approved by the Legislature this year. The measure repealed, in counties like Duval, state rules requiring developers whose projects would overload local roads to pay impact fees to upgrade those roads. Read more of this story here

November 4, 2009

Survey: Prospects for FL recovery mixed

“Florida was the first one into the recession, and it’s probably going to be the last one out.”

That’s the prediction from Timothy Becker, director of the University of Florida’s Bergstrom Center for Real Estate Studies, based on its most recent survey, which finds the state’s real estate outlook is plagued by uncertainty.

“Most economists think the recession is over, but people are afraid to spend money as unemployment keeps going up, which creates problems for every sector of the real estate market,” Becker said.

The high unemployment rate, coupled with the increasing number of foreclosures, is going to make it hard for the state to dig out from under the economic downturn.

The survey finds the commercial real estate the weakest sector with no improvement expected until the job market turns around, Becker said. As retailers struggle, they are asking landlords for rent abatements, and instead of expanding, are deciding not to renew leases and even close stores, he said. Read more of this story here.

November 3, 2009

Writer discusses Everglades pollution, restoration

Discussing topics from his book "The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida and The Politics of Paradise," Grunwald described the political controversy surrounding Florida's wetlands to a group of more than 100 in the Ocora Room at Pugh Hall Tuesday night.

"The story of the Everglades is about us," he said, "about how we destroyed it and about how we now have to restore it." Read more of this story here.

November 2, 2009

Sarasota County rethinks growth

When it came to economic development there was always a certain snobbishness to Sarasota County's approach, a leftover from the days when officials actively discouraged development.

But recession, the end of the building boom and a future made uncertain by the growing options of retirees has turned the old economic development model on its head.

The change was foreshadowed last December when County Administrator Jim Ley admitted in an internal memo to county commissioners that "we have no economic development strategy as a community."

The admission was a stunning one, considering the region's unemployment rate was heading toward 9 percent at the time and a reeling economy promised even more pain. Unemployment in the region now stands at 12.5 percent. Read more about this story here.

November 2, 2009

Turning blind eye to rising sea levels dangerous

Fear and foreboding hung over beaches and harbors and coastal communities last week as a certain place digested the inevitability of rising sea levels.

That certain place wasn't Florida.

It was Australia that was consumed with worry over the catastrophic effects a 30- or 40-inch rise in sea level could bring to its 21,000-mile shoreline.

A parliamentary report released Tuesday, with an urgent message and a cumbersome name -- Managing Our Coastal Zone in a Changing Climate -- reiterated warnings from climate scientists across the globe and listed wrenching steps needed for Australians to fend off catastrophe.

The same day, another study was published in the scientific journal Environmental Research Letters that looked at similar effects on the Atlantic coast and Florida. The report also warned that heroic and ``increasingly ambitious'' measures would be necessary to protect coastal cities like Miami from the encroaching sea.

Read more of this story here.

November 1, 2009

Florida's battleground issue
More than 200 people from both sides ofMartin County's development war crowded into Stuart's Blake Library auditorium last week to learn about Amendment 4. The odd bedfellows included Future Groupers and Conservation Alliance members; builders and clean water advocates; commissioners and residents.  Read more of this story here.

A vote on the Florida Hometown Democracy Amendment is a year away, but the battle lines are being drawn. More than 1 million Floridians signed petitions to put Amendment 4 on the November 2010 ballot. It would give voters veto power over changes to their community's growth plan. (For more information, see Floridians for Smarter Growth, ( a coalition of business groups, opposes the amendment.

November 1, 2009

Connerton sign of flawed planning

This again brings into clear focus the folly of Florida's government planning/development staffs, real estate and mortgage companies, builders, and elected officials who have constantly lived by the creed that they have never seen a development proposal they did not like. Read more of this story here.