Sun Terra sells off Harmony East land to Deseret Ranch for $9.9M

Less than two months after Sun Terra Communities paid $24 million for the Harmony community in east Osceola County, the developer has parted with 4,236 acres that were entitled for thousands of home sites.

Sun Terra bought the 11,000-acre development from Starwood Land Ventures in September and is getting ready to start construction on Harmony West. The Mormon Church's Farmland Reserve, Inc. paid $9.9 million last week for Harmony East, land that abuts the Deseret Ranch.

Sun Terra Principal Richard Jerman told GrowthSpotter the developer kept much of the wetland on what would have been the community's final phase of development, and sold the dry land to Deseret.

"They wanted all the grazing land they could get," Jerman said. "It's immediately adjacent to their property, so it makes sense for them to own it."

Erik Jacobson, president of Deseret Ranch, said the ranch would expand its cattle operation on the site.

"Since the land is immediately adjacent to the ranch, their desire to sell presented an unexpected opportunity for us to increase our pasture land and add approximately 600 head to our herd," he said via email. "Expanding our cattle operation reflects our fundamental commitment to agriculture in east central Florida.”

The disposition allows Sun Terra to recoup about 40 percent of the Harmony investment and concentrate on its launch of Harmony West, the master-planned community's second phase. It's approved for about 1,600 single-family and townhome units and some commercial uses. 

The developer also controls about 500 lots in Harmony Main, of which about half are under contract to CalAtlantic for its active adult community, and all of Harmony Central, which has 283 lots.

Harmony East is entitled for more than 3,500 units, but the bulk of the land was designated for rural residential use. Though it's in the county's Urban Growth Boundary, it lacks access to public utilities, so  it would have had be developed with wells and septic. Jerman said it likely wouldn't be developed for more than a decade.

"We just don't think the market's there yet," Jerman said. "We're not that long-term a player. It's a great piece of property, it's just the length of the hold is not really right for us."

The ranch property immediately to the east was moved into Osceola's Urban Growth Boundary in 2015 with the adoption of the North Ranch Sector Plan. The plan maps out a future for 133,000 acres of ranch property as a mixed-use district with a potential population of 500,000. The sector plan doesn't anticipate development occurring on the property for at least another 25 years.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407)420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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