The most recent developer to pitch a plan to the Town of Eatonville to develop a 100-acre former school site at I-4 dropped its offer, citing Eatonville Mayor Anthony Grant's "antics" and "lack of transparency."
"We don't want to be tainted by him," said Randall Greene, a partner in DCS Capital Investments LLC, a company affiliated with Bella Collina and Ryan Homes. It is owned by Dwight Schar, who owns an interest in the Washington Redskins.
At Eatonville's Tuesday night council meeting Greene offered to pay cash to buy the parcel at close to its $10 million appraised value and, to show good faith, offered a $1 million cash deposit by the end of the week and a letter of intent to close on the property in as few as 30 days. DCS proposed building a multi-family residential development with a retail component.
Mayor Grant shut down discussion of DCS's offer at the Council after becoming agitated and saying that such an offer is not part of a formal process he wants to create to vet developers. Grant said he wants to put the project through a bidding process with the hope that a couple of dozen or more developers will come forth with bids.
"It's his loss," Grant told GrowthSpotter Thursday afternoon after he was told that DCS took the offer off the table. "He wants to take advantage of the town, and he is not going to take advantage of the town."
Greene called the mayor "non-transparent" because he said he met with Grant a few weeks ago and shared the terms of the proposal. He said the mayor kept the offer to himself, not sharing the information with the rest of the council.
"There was nothing to share," Grant said, adding he doesn't consider his discussion with Greene a formal proposal or offer, and he told Greene at the time that he wants to go through a formal bidding process for the land.
"It's the best piece of property between Altamonte and Disney," Grant said. "It's prime real estate. The local market knows, but nobody knows in Philadelphia, or New York, or Baltimore that this property is out there."
Eatonville does not own the property. The Orange County School system has the title, and has given Eatonville nearly five years to find a buyer and craft a development plan for the land. That five-year period will be up July 1, said board attorney Woody Rodriguez, general counsel.
Grant said he met with the school system's chairman about an extension. "It was a very positive meeting and I am hopeful they are going to be partners with us and we are going to do this process in step and harmony," he said.
Attorney Rodriguez said the upturn in the real estate market has potentially raised the parcel's value.
"With all of these suitors the property has become more lucrative in this market," Rodriguez said. "I think it will fetch a good price and it will probably be developed."