September 2009

September 2009 News Archives

September 30, 2009

1,590 homes on the way?
 Developers are rushing to city and county commissions across Florida for permission to build more homes on rural land, despite a deflated real estate market and a crashing wave of foreclosures.

In Palm Beach County alone, landowners are filing papers for rights to build as many as 1,590 new homes on six large tracts of mostly vacant land - from old polo fields west of Lake Worth to parts of drive-through zoo Lion Country Safari near Royal Palm Beach. Read more of this story here.


September 28, 2009

High hopes for high-speed rail
As key political factors fall in place, Tampa, Lakeland and Orlando are leading contenders to launch the nation's first true high-speed rail corridor, with 150 mph trains running by 2014.

On Friday, 40 states will file detailed high-speed rail project applications with the Federal Railroad Administration. In December, President Barack Obama will announce which will get money from the $787 billion federal stimulus plan to generate jobs. Read more of this story here.

September 27, 2009

Area pushes for rapid transit system
Leaders will seek federal money from Sen. Nelson for a plan that includes electric streetcars.
A group of community leaders plans to meet with U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., to request federal money for a rapid transit system that would link east and west Gainesville, the University of Florida and Santa Fe College, and major shopping and employment centers.

The estimated cost is $185 million and would include money from developers of several large projects along the route. Read more of this story here.

September 26, 2009

Real estate law firms change emphasis from transactions to foreclosures
With Florida having the second highest foreclosure rate in the nation behind only Nevada, real estate attorneys are scrambling not only to keep up with client demand, but to shift their resources away from soft practice areas to more lucrative endeavors.

"Large law firms are switching attorneys that were doing transactional work -- the buying and selling -- to foreclosure lawsuits, prosecuting foreclosure lawsuits, filing on behalf of the lenders," said Kristopher Fernandez, a member of the Florida Bar's Real Property, Probate and Trust Law section and owner of Tampa-based Kristopher Fernandez P.A. "They are shifting their
focus. There was a vacuum, and attorneys have stepped in."
Read more of this story here.

September 25, 2009

Advisory board sends Farmton plan to Volusia County Council with thumbs-up

The Farmton vision for a planned development stretching south from Edgewater into Brevard County took a step toward reality Sept. 22.

The Volusia County Planning and Land Development Regulation Commission (PLDRC) unanimously voted to send the 59,000-acre, 94-square-mile project to the County Council with a thumbs-up.  Read more of this story here.


September 24, 2009

Volusia County gives 1st approval to Farmton -- city in the wilderness
A plan that would conserve more than 40,000 acres of remote timberland while establishing a new city of more than 20,000 homes has passed its first round of approvals.

The Miami Corp., a Chicago company that has owned the vast tree farm in Volusia and Brevard counties for more than 80 years, won unanimous approval Tuesday from Volusia's planning commission. Brevard County's planning agency and county commissioners have also approved the plan.

What's next? Read more of this story here

September 23, 2009

Golf resort plans presented to Moore County planning board
The golf Mecca of North Carolina could be getting more courses - and homes.

Developer Bob Hansen of MHK Ventures of Pinehurst has proposed a 1,650-acre development near West End.

His plans for Pine Forest Golf Course were submitted to the county on Monday and finalized Wednesday, Tim Garner of the Moore County planning staff said.

Hansen said the resort development will feature two championship golf courses and about 600 homes and cottages. Plans include a 100,000-square-foot retail center. Read more of this story here.

September 22, 2009

Butler expansion gets city hearing
The proposed 1.5-million-square-foot expansion of Butler Plaza came before the city of Gainesville for the first time Monday as the City Plan Board considered land use and zoning changes to allow the development.

"It is the most complex development ever within the city of Gainesville," said Randy Wells, chair of the City Plan Board, adding that the previous Butler Plaza developments were done in the county and only recently annexed into the city.

Read more of this article here

September 21, 2009

Affordable Housing Development Controversy Continues

Controversy continues over an affordable housing project set for one Panama City community.  The PACES Foundation is planning a 92-unit complex at the corner of Sherman Ave. and 11th St. but it doesn’t look like it will be getting a neighborhood welcome.

“Parties going on, and suspected drug dealings,” said 40-year Panama City resident Sara Mount about what she anticipates the complex will attract.  Read more of this article here.

September 20, 2009

Pine Island Road widening placed on fast track

A plan to speed up the widening of Pine Island Road in Cape Coral was approved Friday by the Metropolitan Planning Organization, which sets priorities for local transportation projects.

The plan now goes next month to the Florida Department of Transportation, which must approve it.

"It was a good day for Cape Coral," said Mayor Jim Burch, an MPO member who voted for the plan. Read more of this story here.

September 19, 2009

Developer, residents clash over proposed zoning change
A property owner in Northwest St. Johns County wants to change his land's zoning for millions of square feet of commercial space, and some residents are not happy about it.

Joe Helow and his family own two large parcels of land, 340 acres off Greenbriar Road and County Road 223, called the Greenbriar property, and 560 acres off Greenbriar and Roberts roads, called the Florida property because it's shaped like the state.

Helow said his family has asked St. Johns County for a zoning change to distribute the already-allowed 4 million square feet of mixed use development throughout the Greenbriar property and change the Florida parcel from horticulture to mixed use. Mixed use includes residential, industrial and commercial development. Read more of this story here.

September 18, 2009

Steel Point development plan now to be done in phases
The massive Steel Point development on the city’s East Side waterfront has been downsized, altered and divided into “bite-size pieces” in reaction to the weak economy, real estate market and credit markets.

The city and Bridgeport Landing principal Robert Christoph Sr. have reached a new tentative agreement for the project, being promoted as “SteelPointe Harbor.” It calls for the developer to pay the city $500,000 once a new land disposition agreement (LDA) is reached.

 Read more of this story here

September 18, 2009

The Mayor of Coconut Creek Gets Butterflies
A group of gritty citizens have organized a successful petition to put on the 2010 ballot in Florida an amendment to the state constitution called Florida Hometown Democracy. It is greatly feared by state business interests, including Associated Industries and the Florida Chamber of Commerce. If the amendment passes by a 60 percent majority-- a new threshold for passage of amendments by petition proposed and passed specifically to counter Florida Hometown Democracy-- then changes to local growth plans will be subject to local vote and not local elected representatives acting as zoning councils. Read more of this story here.

September 17, 2009

Legal Petition Filed With Feds to Protect 3 Million Acres for Florida Panther
The endangered Florida panther needs 4,860 square miles – roughly 3 million acres – protected as critical habitat in southern Florida to save it from extinction and recover the species, according to a new scientific petition submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity.

Through petitions and litigation, the Center has obtained more than 100 million acres of critical habitat nationally, for endangered species ranging from elkhorn and staghorn corals off the Florida coast to Atlantic salmon in Maine and eiders in Alaska; it has filed more than 500 lawsuits on behalf of endangered wildlife and won success in 93 percent of its cases. The Center’s entry into conservation efforts for the Florida panther adds a new element to the decision-making process underway at the Fish and Wildlife Service on a petition previously filed by the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

“Development and tradeoffs invariably leave the Florida panther with less room to roam,” said petition author Michael Robinson with the Center, who is also the author of an authoritative history of federal policy toward predators.

Read more of this story here

September 16, 2009

Fla. Cabinet reject development plan
Gov. Charlie Crist and the Florida Cabinet rejected a proposed 800-home development in Marion County after being told that approving it would just aid a ballot initiative to give voters veto power over such projects.

Department of Community Affairs Secretary Tom Pelham offered that warning before the panel's unanimous vote.

The proposed Hometown Democracy Amendment that's on the November 2010 ballot would require referendums on amendments to city and county comprehensive plans such as the one turned down by the Cabinet. The measure is opposed by business and development interests and many state and local politicians including Crist.

Read more of this story here.

September 15, 2009

Huge N. Brevard land deal pushes on

If approved, the Farmton Plan will designate more than 8,000 acres of northern Brevard County's serene forests, swamps and marshes as conservation land -- with no taxpayer purchase required.

Also included in the deal: 32,000 similar acres in neighboring Volusia County.

"If this were a cash deal, this would be the largest single conservation deal in Florida history," said Clay Henderson, a former Volusia County councilman and past president of the Florida Audubon Society. Read more of this story here.

September 15, 2009

State Beach Town Development Provides Unique Offering
In a real estate market where moribund sales figures have caused some developers to throw in the towel, one is finding a way to make its development shine.

“The importance of making our product unique extends beyond the narrow timeframe of the current recession,” Chris Murphy, marketing manager at Seabrook Land Company in Olympia, Wash., says.  Read more of this story here.

September 14, 2009

Case before Crist and Cabinet could have implications on growth rules

Gov. Charlie Crist and the Cabinet are scheduled to decide on Tuesday whether 400 acres of rolling horse country outside Ocala can be developed into about 800 homes.

It's a minor agenda matter for Florida's top elected officials, but one with major implications for the future of the state's growth management policy.

The issue is simple: Does Marion County need more homes?

Read more of this story here

September 13, 2009

Palm Bay battling in court
The explicit graffiti is painted over, new plywood covers windows and doors and someone has mowed the grass in front of the old Brevard Bowling Center on Port Malabar Boulevard.

But the property is still sitting vacant -- as it has for at least seven years, if not longer. It has $361,000 in liens from the city and a "for sale" sign planted in the parking lot.

"I used to bowl there," said Lois Herbert, on a morning walk recently. She has lived in Palm Bay for 20 years. "I was wishing it would get sold. Things change."

The bowling alley is one of several significant legal issues on a list city officials provided to FLORIDA TODAY of some of the most pressing problems facing Palm Bay. Some of the matters have cost the city tens of thousands of dollars in legal bills and/or have been dragging on for several years.

Read more of this story here.

September 13, 2009

Builders seek zero impact fees

Some St. Johns County commercial developers plan to ask the County commissioners on Tuesday if they'd agree to suspend all impact fees for two years to encourage new business to locate here.

That's a major request in tough times because in 2009 the county collected $7.3 million in impact fees.

However, Edward Paucek, spokesman for St. Johns County Builders Association, said impact fee relief would immediately attract outside business and industry to relocate or expand into St. Johns County. Read more of this story here.

September 13, 2009

Developers, city spell relief K-O-Z
It has been a decade since several blighted areas of Lebanon were designated as tax-free Keystone Opportunity Zones in the hopes of boosting commercial development and creating jobs.

True to their goal, the KOZs enticed many businesses to move in, creating more than 200 jobs.

And there is room for more, KOZ developers say, but the clock is ticking, and the tax-free temptation will expire in 2013.

The state Legislature authorized the creation of KOZs in 1998, and the Department of Community and Economic Development was put in charge of administering them.

Statewide, 193 KOZs cover 46,800 acres in 61 counties, according to a 2008 DCED report. The seven in Lebanon County spread almost 200 acres and are all in the City of Lebanon. Read more of this story here


September 12, 2009

Laid off and looking

I’ve lost out on a couple of good jobs recently when I was perceived as being overqualified, overpaid and maybe overage or overconfident — who knows what. Career pages on company Web sites call out for “great talent,” “passionate team players” and “champions striving to be No. 1” I’m thinking of Michael Jordan, Derek Jeter, Peyton and Eli Manning — were any of these athletes perceived to be overqualified, and therefore not considered for employment? The concept is absurd in the sports world, where teams are truly competing to be champions.

So how does overqualified work in today’s business world? Read more of this article here.

September 11, 2009

No deal: Shadow Wood, Commons Club members at The Brooks call off agreement to purchase clubs

Members are calling off an agreement to buy the Shadow Wood and Commons clubs from the Bonita Bay Group for $8.3 million.

New demands from the developer have killed the deal, said David English, president of the Shadow Wood Country Club in Estero. On Sept. 8, Tim Boates, Bonita Bay Group’s restructuring officer, met with members to discuss the liability of deposits for resigned members.

The developer abruptly stopped honoring its 30-day policy to refund deposits to resigning members late last year. Based on that policy about $4 million is owed to members of both clubs who have either resigned or downgraded their memberships.

Read more of this story here


September 10, 2009

Firm Targets $100M of East Coast Retail Centers
Stonemason Partners, a Miami Beach, Fla., investor and property manager, plans to make $100 million worth of shopping-center acquisitions along the East Coast.

The year-old firm is mainly looking for properties of 40,000 square feet to 200,000 sf that are anchored by grocery stores. It is interested in centers whose tenants handle merchandise that, like groceries, are considered to be household necessities.

It will look to add value through more intensive property-management techniques that can include making site enhancements like new signage, lighting and landscaping and improving occupancy levels and tenant mixes. Its targets include properties where existing owners are unable or unwilling to provide intensive site management, as well as ones that are having trouble meeting debt-service obligations or are otherwise under financial stress.

"Necessities-based centers in the right locations will perform well regardless of economic conditions, but they can fall into trouble because of having the wrong owner or being over-leveraged," said Stonemason's founder and managing member, Gustaf Arnoldsson, who also operates another Miami Beach investment firm, North Shore Holdings.
Read more of this story here

September 10, 2009

Bonita Bay's plans for east Lee County development fizzle
Bonita Bay Group on Tuesday withdrew its proposal to build North River Village - a 1,232-acre development the company had planned to build in east Lee County.

Susan Watts, senior vice president for Bonita Bay Group, said in a release that the extended downturn of the Southwest Florida real estate market prompted the company's decision to withdraw an amendment to the county comprehensive plan that would have allowed the project.

"Bonita Bay Group is conveying the property back to its original owners as part of the company's long-term restructuring strategy, which includes pursuing the sale of our amenity-based clubs to their members and focusing our energies and resources on opportunities in our developed communities that are well positioned to rebound as the current economic downturn stabilizes and improves," she said in the release. Read more of this story here


September 10, 2009

FDIC Launching Nearly $5B of Asset Sales
The FDIC is expected to shortly bring to market a whopping $4.7 billion of mixed quality residential and commercial real estate loans that it assumed from some 20 failed banks.

The assets will be offered through what the agency and its contractors call structured offerings, in that investors will buy only an interest in each portfolio sold, while FDIC will keep the remainder. And the agency is expected to include elements of federal government's proposed public-private investment partnership, or PPIP program, in that it might offer seller financing.

The largest of the offerings will involve $2.7 billion of residential acquisition and development loans that will be marketed through Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, which has handled a number of previous FDIC loan sales.

The other portfolios will each involve roughly $1 billion. Deutsche Bank will offer a package of commercial mortgages, while a venture of Midland Loan Services and Pentalpha Capital Group will handle the sale of a portfolio of commercial acquisition and development loans.  Read more of this story here

September 10, 2009

Miami Gardens buys site out of foreclosure

The city of Miami Gardens bought a 47-acre site from an affiliate of Cornerstone Group after Regions Bank agreed to take a 10 percent loss on its mortgage and dismiss its foreclosure.

On Aug. 27, the city bought the two vacant, commercial-zoned sites, on the east side of Northwest 27th Avenue between Miami Gardens Drive and Northwest 191st Street, for nearly $9 million.

Immediately after closing, the city deeded back 7 acres to Cornerstone for a senior housing development.

According to the city agenda item that approved a bond to finance the transaction, Cornerstone CW LLC owed $10 million to the bank and had invested $3 million in equity in the property.

The developer bought it for $11 million in 2006 and received approval to build an office park and more than 600 homes. However, Regions Bank filed a foreclosure lawsuit against Cornerstone CW in January and secured a $10.5 million judgment in July. Read more of this story here

September 10, 2009

MBA: Delinquency rate on the rise

The percentage of commercial and multifamily mortgages past due rose during the second quarter, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

The 30-day-plus delinquency rate on loans held in commercial mortgage-backed securities rose 2.04 percentage points to 3.89 percent between the first and second quarters of the year.

The 60-day-plus delinquency rate on loans held in life company portfolios was up .03 percentage points to 0.15 percent, quarter-over-quarter, the MBA reported.

Read more of this story here

September 9, 2009

Study paves way for future $142M plan on State Road 542
WINTER HAVEN - Not too long ago, much of State Road 542 between First Street in Winter Haven and U.S. 27 in Dundee offered a lightly traveled scenic route for cyclists and Sunday drivers wishing to travel a largely country road.

As the population increased, city boundaries expanded and subdivisions sprouted, the two-lane road turned into a hurricane evacuation route and a main entrance to the city. Officials in the city, county and the Florida Department of Transportation began to look at ways to to enhance its traffic flow, safety and appearance.

The quest to widen and improve State Road 542 cleared one hurdle recently when the Project Development and Environment Study was completed by FDOT and the Federal Highway Administration accepted the location and design concept. Read more of this story here

September 8, 2009

5 years after Frances: Is Alachua County better prepared?
Five years ago this weekend, North Central Florida was being pummeled with fierce winds, trees were crashing onto houses, power was out and three people died.

Hurricane Frances was at tropical storm strength when it brushed Alachua County, but that was strong enough to make life miserable in the weeks to follow.

Some things have changed since then -- new development must meet stricter stormwater regulations, many residents are paying more attention to the health of their trees and pruning or removing them when needed, Gainesville Regional Utilities has upgraded its system and a county stormwater plan is in the works. Read more of this story here.

September 7, 2009

WCI emerges from bankruptcy
WCI Communities has emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy as a newly reorganized, private company, eliminating more than $2 billion in debt and liabilities, the company said in a release.

The Bonita Springs-based luxury homebuilder filed for bankruptcy protection a year ago, and a Delaware bankruptcy court approved its reorganization plan late last month.

Under the plan, which was filed in June and supported by WCI’s senior secured lenders and official creditors committee, WCI eliminates more than $2 billion of debt and liabilities from its balance sheet. Read more of this story here

September 2, 2009

Stimulus saves schools -- for now
The stimulus package from the federal government probably saved more than 100 teacher jobs, kept school personnel from taking pay cuts and beefed up special education programs in St. Johns County this school year, according to school officials.

But county school officials are also looking two years down the road when there's no more stimulus money available and "we fall off the cliff," Superintendent Joe Joyner told school board members at a workshop meeting on Tuesday.

Read more of this story here

September 1, 2009

Potential for Further Growth Along Route 20 Poses Opportunities and Challenges

Walking the corridors at Wilbraham’s Town Hall, one notices charts and maps from many eras of the community’s history.

These days the map of town is scrutinized with renewed fervor, as the future of the town’s business community is addressed at the Boston Road/Route 20 corridor bisecting Wilbraham’s north end. A newly rezoned property holds the possibility to readdress the town’s master plan vision, created back in 1963. Read more of this story here