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Stalled Clermont townhouse project threatened with revocation of entitlements

The Mason Ridge project is located on U.S. 27 in Clermont. The developer cleared the property and built a retaining wall before stopping work in 2018.
The Mason Ridge project is located on U.S. 27 in Clermont. The developer cleared the property and built a retaining wall before stopping work in 2018. (Lake County Property Appraiser)

A Clermont developer who stopped work on a proposed 102-unit townhouse community is at risk of losing the entitlements to the property if he doesn’t resume construction in the next few months.

Curt Henschel, the city’s development services director, asked the Planning and Zoning Commission to consider revoking ALP Investments’ Conditional Use Permit (CUP) that allowed the multifamily construction on the 10-acre site. He said little to no construction activity has taken place since the site was cleared in early 2018, and neighbors have consistently complained about the lack of maintenance on the property.

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The property currently has a $43,250 code enforcement lien for overgrowth, trash and other violations.

Attorney Jimmy Crawford said the ALP was forced to put the project on hold when construction bids were almost double its estimate. They have been working to secure additional financing over the last year a half, Crawford said.

The developer would have set aside 13 units for moderate income families to gain 77 market-rate apartments.

He assured the board that the financing was imminent, and construction could resume in a few months.

“Give us 3-6 months to show progress on this,” he asked. “We’ll be able to show real progress in that time. This is not a case of an abandoned project."

If the city revokes the CUP, the owner wouldn’t qualify for a construction loan. It would essentially kill a $20 million project, Crawford said.

He also explained that ALP wasn’t aware of the code violations because the company had changed its mailing address in 2018 but neglected to update it with the Property Appraiser.

The new townhomes will be about a block from the city's Victory Pointe Park.

The P&Z Commissioners were unsympathetic to the developer’s plight. Commissioner David Colby, who said he drives by the site every day, called it ugly and deplorable. But he thought it would be impractical to revoke the CUP.

“I think we should have them come back to us in April or May and show progress,” he said. “It might feel good to punish the developer and take the CUP away, but I don’t think that gets us any closer to our goal, which is to have a completed development.”

Ultimately the commission voted unanimously to recommend delaying the CUP for four months, on the condition that ALP brings the property into compliance and pays half of the code enforcement lien within 30 days. That recommendation now goes to the Clermont City Council.

“What we need here is a show of good faith,” Commissioner Herb Smith said.

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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