A local nursery owner has acquired all of the undeveloped residential lots at the Deer Island Country Club along with the golf course itself in an effort to reinvigorate the sluggish development.
Wally Owens, owner of Three Volcanoes Farm, bought 62 lots for $3.37 million and the golf course tracts for $1.2 million, according to records filed with Lake County. His family company, KSWK LLC, holds the deeds.
The deal comes with a $4.38 million mortgage to the seller, Deer Island Holdings LLC.
Owens' motivation was simple: "I happen to live in that neighborhood," he told GrowthSpotter.com. "There was some talk that it was going to be shut down, and we were able to purchase it ourselves. We're trying to develop the island. We live there and we really like it. Our goal is to get some houses built and to support the golf course."
Deer Island is a 170-acre, 18-hole course designed by acclaimed golf architect Joe Lee. Roughly 100 homes have been built in the gated, 400-acre community development district, which sits between Lake Dora to the north and Lake Beauclair to the south.
Owens is in discussions with builders to begin putting up homes on the lots. The previous owner sold vacant lots, but Owens intends to sell single-family homes as they are built.
He identifies nine lakefront lots which will support homes running from $700,000 to $1 million. There are roughly 30 estate lots for homes selling for around $500,000, and smaller lots for homes in the $250,000 to $300,000 range.
Owens' Three Volcanoes Farms grows 80 varieties of woody ornamentals, tropicals, liriopes, ornamental grasses, day lilies and groundcovers at facilities in Tavares, Apopka and Costa Rica. He refers to the nursery as his "day job," but his passion is obviously the Deer Island course.
"It is one of the most beautiful courses in the state," he said. "It's a top-five course in central Florida. We plan on promoting it a lot more than it has been in the past.
"We're already rehabbing it, already started getting ready for the fall," he said. "We think it will be a top-three course for central Florida by the fall."
Owens' mission reflects a trend in Central Florida, with golf courses closing and being repurposed as the sport declines in popularity with young people and course owners sit on increasingly valuable land.
The National Golf Foundation reports that 205 U.S. golf courses closed in 2017 alone.
Casselberry residents are currently engaged in what is becoming a common struggle, opposing plans for a June shutdown of the Country Club at Deer Run in Seminole County. The owner of the course has announced plans to sell to developers, but the Save Deer Run citizen action group has been formed to try to halt further development of the hundred-plus acres.
Meanwhile, neighbors also objected to redevelopment of the dormant Silver Lake Golf and Country Club in Leesburg, but construction is expected to begin this summer on the 233-home Silver Lake Club subdivision.
While Deer Island has never closed, it has struggled financially since it was built in the early 1990s. The original developer went bankrupt, and subsequent owners also lost the property to foreclosure.