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The image above shows land south/southeast of the intersection of S. International Drive and Westwood Boulevard. Parcels in red were acquired by SFWMD, and those in yellow were sold by the District to a entity made up of private owners trying to consolidate land in the northwest corner of the vast expanse.
The image above shows land south/southeast of the intersection of S. International Drive and Westwood Boulevard. Parcels in red were acquired by SFWMD, and those in yellow were sold by the District to a entity made up of private owners trying to consolidate land in the northwest corner of the vast expanse. (SFWMD)

Thirty owners of former Munger land east of S. International Drive completed a $1 million land swap last week with the South Florida Water Management District, each side gaining about 40 acres that help to further assemblage efforts for private development, and the District to focus its protected area.

Eminent domain and property rights lawyers at Sarasota-based Moore Bowman & Rix, PA (MBR) now represent 103 clients in the Shingle Creek area, which have been working together for the past decade to assemble more than 600 acres of non-contiguous land that lies southeast of the International Drive-Westwood Boulevard intersection.

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In the recent swaps, SFWMD sold 27 parcels totaling 40.02 acres to Shingle Creek Co-Owners LLC on July 14 for $1 million, followed by the private group selling 45.07 acres to SFWMD for the same price on July 19.

Much of the land owned by the individuals in the LLC could be accessed by a future Westwood Lake Boulevard, an unscheduled road extension planned by Orange County that would branch southeast off of the previously noted intersection.

The law firm is still working to consolidate more parcels so that its client group can have a larger piece of contiguous land to market and sell for development, Kim Sewell, paralegal with MBR, told GrowthSpotter on Monday.

Future development of their land will require a number of steps, including rezoning and a Comprehensive Plan amendment. Much of it is now zoned Agricultural or "Mitigation," nearly all submerged. But parts are in areas designated ACMU or ACR in the Future Land Use Map, categories that would allow for high density projects, Sewell said.

The group's efforts to buy more 1- to 5-acre parcels from individual owners continues, she said. The law firm is working with land planners to determine the future costs of development.

Hundreds of acres of former Munger Land Company property was subdivided in the early 20th century and sold to individual investors, often called "paper subdivisions." No roads, utility or sewage infrastructure were laid, and much of it in Orlando is in wetlands, making it a challenge to assemble and develop, said Trevor Hall, director of land services with Colliers International.

The July sales followed a decision by the SFWMD Governing Board on April 14 to approve the swap, which came after an initial MOU between the two sides in April 2015. The land amounts were deemed equal in value, based on independent appraisal.

After closing the sales, 227.27 acres of the Shingle Creek Project Area will be removed by SFWMD. Most of it is in the northwest corner of the boundary area, bordering the future Westwood Lake Boulevard, and incorporating land owned by the group of owners trying to consolidate for development.

Much of the Munger land sold by SFWMD was originally acquired by Orange County to satisfy mitigation obligations when the Central Florida Beltway and Orange County Convention Center expanded, which the county later donated to SFWMD.

The goal since then has been to consolidate SFWMD's holdings in Shingle Creek through land swaps with private owners of the small parcels, eventually concentrating privately owned land to the west near S. International Drive, and to the south near the Greeneway.

The district expects to acquire another 398 acres through future land dedications to offset wetland impacts. It also plans to use existing ($3.2 million) and future funding to complete the purchase of another 636 acres.

"This would provide advantages on public land for things like stormwater treatment, providing sources of wildlife habitat, dispersed water storage and more," said Randy Smith, SFWMD spokesman. "This can actually help flood hazard mitigation in the Shingle Creek flood plain."

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at bmoser@growthspotter.com, (407) 420-5685 or @bobmoser333. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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