Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Developer Snaps Up Property out East

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Developer Snaps Up Property out East

Article excerpt

New Port Richey-based Suntech Properties has acquired nearly 1,100 acres at Fruitville and Verna roads for $8 million, records show.

With Sarasota County's 2050 community development plan being revised, Suntech appears to be taking the long view -- grabbing land before others do.

If plans hold, Suntech could be able to develop hundreds of homes and commercial space on the land that it acquired from Don Dee Ranch Inc., which had owned the land for more than three decades.

Michael Orsi, 68, a Suntech executive and Clearwater real estate investor who has done "a couple dozen" developments in Pinellas and Pasco counties, said he has no immediate plans for the property.

"I don't know what will happen," he said. "It is what the county commission will allow us to do over time. Florida is getting more retirees, so we are good for 15 or 20 years."

Lee Byron, who specializes in rural land sales for brokerage Michael Saunders & Co., said the price, at $7,400 an acre, was lower than other recent land sales nearby.

"There haven't been a lot of large pieces that have sold," Byron said. She sold 111 acres in June 2013 for about $8,000 an acre, but not for development. The buyer simply wanted a larger farm, and the sellers, who were "asking a much higher price," accepted an all- cash deal that closed quickly.

Other sales ranged from $600,000 for 20 acres, or $30,000 an acre, about 5 miles east of Interstate 75, while a 46-acre tract near the upscale Founders Club sold earlier this month for $1.265 million, or $27,000 an acre.

Verna Road, by comparison, is about 11 miles east of the Interstate.

Prices "are all over the place. Being out that far is an issue," Byron said of the Verna property. "With what is happening to 2050, I think there is a feeding frenzy by some folks to see if they can acquire land and do some development.

"We are in a whole new era now. I don't know what they will be allowed to do," Byron said. "The commission has made a 180-degree turn in favor of development. …

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