SEBRING — Sun ‘N Lake supervisors have voted unanimously to accept Raymond Hornick’s company’s offer to buy a sizable portion of Unit 12 from the special improvement district for development.
However, Hornick has a 120-day due diligence period to find out if the Highlands County Board of County Commission will require him to pay to widen Schumacher Road.
He told the Sun ‘N Lake Board of Supervisors, during their Friday meeting, that if the county asks him to do that, he won’t be able to make the development work.
“We’re already on the verge of Schumacher failing,” Hornick said. “So we can’t go in there and put in 1,000 homes, 1,300 homes [or] 1,500 homes. It would never pass.”
The property sold is 215 acres located just west of Tanglewood and east of Ortega Street and Granada Boulevard.
Hornick offered to pay $500,000 to Sun ‘N Lake Special Improvement District, which owns the land, and another $508,000 to Highlands County Tax Collector, for unpaid taxes on the land.
He plans to make two $50,000 payments to the district but will be able to ask the district to refund that if he can’t afford to build the development.
Hornick plans to build 314 homes, with some of them on half-acre to acre-and-a-half lots, to reduce the traffic count.
“If we go any lower on the count, there’s no profit in it either,” Hornick said.
When he gets ready to develop, he said, he will replat the land and will be required to put in roads, water/sewer lines and underground electric.
He hopes to have a main entrance on Ortega and put in maybe a second and third entrance — one of them onto Ponce De Leon Boulevard to the north, to empty some traffic toward Sun ‘N Lake Boulevard.
Highlands County Engineer Clinton Howerton Jr. told the Highlands News-Sun that Schumacher is listed as a major collector roadway in the adopted Comprehensive Plan.
“I show the max volume to maintain a level of service D rating to be 1,197 vehicles per hour,” Howerton said in an email.
Based on the most recent traffic counts, it’s currently at level C, with level A being the best and level F being a constant traffic jam.
Widening the road would eventually have to happen, Hornick said, but it’s not part of the county’s five-year work plan right now.
Residents and supervisors also had concerns about capacity at the wastewater treatment plant.
Drew Jones of Polston Engineering told supervisors that the current plant is operating at 400,000 out of its 700,000-gallon-per-day capacity, or roughly 57% capacity at peak levels.
The proposed development would need another 50,000 gallons per day, but that would ramp up over 10 years of build-out, Jones said.
David Halbig, former supervisor, said he had concerns that meetings may have taken place between Hornick and members of the board outside public forums, but David Schumacher, attorney for the district, said all the meetings were with individual supervisors, separate from each other.
Hornick said it had only been three weeks from when he put together a proposal until Friday’s meeting.
Tom Kosty, resident, asked if assessments on the purchased lots, well more than 1,000, would be forgiven or only deferred.
Hornick said the plan is to replat the land immediately, then pay on it as one parcel until the development is complete, a year or two from now.
He also said he has no intention of voting his lots in landowner elections for supervisors.
“I have a history of avoiding voting the best that I can,” Hornick said.
Supervisor Ray Brooks asked about the cost of sending wastewater to the plant, which would require lift stations. Both Jones and District Manager Tanya Cannady said the sale price would provide enough surplus financing to do that.
To residents concerned that $500,000 to the district might be a low payment, Hornick pointed out that the land’s $3.8 million appraisal was based on 253 acres, not the 215 he’s buying.
All of Unit 12 was listed online with an asking price of $1.7 million, Hornick said. Minus 20% would be $1.3 million, and taking off another 10% for a Realtor’s commission would be $1.22 million.
His total out-of-pocket payment will be $1.08 million, Hornick said, within $200,000 of the asking price.
Thus, when asked if he would take a counter offer, Hornick said no.