Tavistock strikes deal w/Toho Water to build new Sunbridge water plant in Osceola

Tavistock Development Company will build a water treatment plant capable of producing 7 million gallons a day of drinking water for the Osceola County portion of Sunbridge.

It's just one example of the unique scale of the 24,000-acre master-planned development -- a project so large the Florida Legislature created an independent stewardship district that gives Tavistock the ability to control development of Sunbridge over its projected 30-year buildout.

The Sunbridge Stewardship District (SSD), which covers the 19,000-plus acres in Osceola County, is one of just eight such districts in the state. They differ from community development districts because they take longer to transition control from developer to homeowners. 

The Sunbridge district could issue general obligation and revenue bonds to finance the construction of water and sewer treatment plants, roads, parks, streetlights and stormwater systems. Those water and sewer facilities will be deeded to Toho Water Authority (TWA), which will operate them under that utility's consumptive use permit.

TWA Executive Director Brian Wheeler said the utility and Tavistock signed an agreement in October spelling out the plan for water, wastewater and reclaimed water services in Sunbridge.  

"By building the plant and financing it, they are getting connection credits, so they don’t have to pay (water and sewer) impact fees," he told GrowthSpotter.

Tavistock spokeswoman Jessi Blakley said the agreement was the result of a lengthy collaboration between the developer, the utility authority and county to provide services to an area where none exist today. 

"The proposed utility plant is intended to serve the long-term needs of the Sunbridge project and potentially other unincorporated areas in northeast Osceola County," she said.

It's more expensive initially, but has the potential for greater savings in the long run, especially if the developer implements water conservation measures required by the agreement. 

"If they can build houses and get people to use less water, they can make more connections for the same investment," Wheeler said. "They're working with us and other consultants to develop a high water-conservation community."

The new SSD will become a wholesale customer of TWA, meaning the district will buy potable water, sewer treatment and reclaimed water at a bulk rate. The district will own the distribution lines and create its own utility company to manage the system and bill customers.

"Sunbridge Stewardship District, either directly or indirectly, will ultimately be the retail water, wastewater and reclaim irrigation provider in the District," Blakley said. "The retail rates are being studied and reviewed but have not been established at this point."

TWA has committed up to 2.07 million gallons a day of drinking water through the first 10 years of development. That represents about 28 percent of its available water capacity.

The new Sunbridge plant will be designed to accommodate future expansions, with the ultimate capacity to extract, treat and store 7 million gallons per day.

"After 10 years, additional water will come from one or more water sources," Wheeler said.

TWA and East Central Florida Services Inc. (the consumptive use permit holder for Deseret Ranch) will jointly apply for one or more state water permits to produce up to 6.5 million gallons a day of either raw or potable drinking water from the future St. Johns River/Taylor Creek Reservoir project, according to the agreement.

Osceola Commissioners this week approved a Comprehensive Plan Amendment to change the land use of the future water and wastewater plants to NRU -- Natural Resource Utilization. The rest of the county's former Northeast District would keep its Mixed-Use designation.

Tavistock has hired Fishkind & Associates to manage the stewardship district, and founder Hank Fishkind as district manager.

While the developer-controlled SSD initially will fund the infrastructure for Sunbridge, the Florida Legislature granted it broad taxing authority. So unlike a typical community development district, the SDD could also provide municipal services and charge property owners ad valorem taxes in additional to annual assessments and special assessments.

However, the legislation states that such taxing authority would only be permitted after the community is governed by its residents. That happens when it reaches 25,000 homes or 45,000 residents. 

The first neighborhoods in Orange County will be underway this year. That area will be served by Orange County Utilities. The Osceola timetable calls for construction on major roadways and the first residential neighborhood to be completed in Second Quarter 2019.

Tavistock also filed its second concept plan for Phase 1 of Sunbridge with the South Florida Water Management District this week. Osceola County adopted the concept plan in July. The developer submitted its first environmental concept plan for the 659 acres west of the canal in November. 

The latest filing covers 625 acres east of the canal. 

The first phase of development in Osceola would be entitled for around 4,834 residential units, 380,000 square feet of commercial space and 2 million square feet of office uses. It includes two school sites, 450 hotel rooms and a major employment center.

Plans also include a 42-acre, man-made lake and marina that would be built on a flooded portion of the existing canal, north of Lake Myrtle. Tavistock has already applied for an environmental permit for a stormwater retention pond called "the big dig" next to the canal. But the lake is not part of the initial filing.

Meanwhile, Pulte subsidiary Del Webb has already filed engineering plans with the water management district for the first phase of what will ultimately be a 1,384-lot active adult community in Sunbridge's Osceola segment. The master plan calls for the project to be built in three phases, just south of the new Cyrils Drive extension.  

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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