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Tavares looking to draw more apartment development with impact fee deferrals

Avalon Park Group is planning 300 multifamily units as part of its Avalon Park Village in Tavares. The developer will break ground this summer on 240 single family homesites as the first residential component of the mixed-use district.
Avalon Park Group is planning 300 multifamily units as part of its Avalon Park Village in Tavares. The developer will break ground this summer on 240 single family homesites as the first residential component of the mixed-use district.(Avalon Park Group)

In Lake County, where one municipality has a moratorium on new multifamily development, another is welcoming apartment developers with open arms, and incentives.

The county seat, Tavares, enacted an ordinance in 2016 that allowed developers of multifamily communities with 100 or more units to defer half of their city impact fee payments for two years after the project’s completion. The City Council’s hope was to attract quality workforce housing to the community.

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“Professional apartment complexes for the many employees who work in Tavares is lacking,” City Administrator John Drury told GrowthSpotter. “This has effected our business community’s ability to recruit quality employees who look for decent accommodations in the community they work.”

Drury said the incentive worked, luring the city’s first Class A apartment community since before the great recession. The developer was Cagan Management Group, best known for its Cagan Crossings development just south of Clermont.

Atwater Phase 2, which should take a year to build, will consist of 208 units spread over 13 buildings on 19 acres.

“When we instituted this program two years ago, a professional apartment investor did just that – invested millions of dollars to develop a professional apartment complex called Atwater Apartments next to the hospital,” Drury said. “It completely filled up and sold out. They are now building Phase 2.”

Jeff Cagan told GrowthSpotter he recognized the need for market-rate apartments in Tavares, especially near the expanded AdventHealth Waterman hospital. It turned out Atwater leased up faster than any of his other communities.

The new ordinance sweetens the incentive even more by giving the developer the option to pay the first 50% of impact fees upfront when building permits are issued or stagger the payments as each individual building secures its certificate of occupancy or certificate of completion. The balance of impact fees would still be due within two years of completion.

A year ago, the city was talking about adding density bonuses to encourage affordable housing. Now Clermont has a 6-month moratorium on all new multifamily development.

It’s a slight change, but one that can reduce the developer’s carrying costs during a 12-18 construction period and improve their ability to secure financing.

“During these times, we as a governmental agency are doing our part to get the business community back on their feet and encourage investment in Tavares, America’s Seaplane City. Its working and its working well,” Drury said.

Avalon Park Group, master developer of Avalon Park Village on Lake Hermosa, is planning 300 multifamily units and 220 additional age-restricted units as part of that 155-acre master-planned community.

The Tavares Council held the first reading on its ordinance on April 15. A second reading and public hearing would be scheduled in May, and city staff have recommended approval of the enhanced incentive.

The welcoming approach is a dramatic shift from how the city of Clermont responded to an influx permit applications for apartment complexes last year. The Clermont City Council imposed a 6-month moratorium on new multifamily development in September 2019. That moratorium was set to expire this spring, but city spokeswoman Kathryn Deen said the City Council is scheduled to vote April 28 on whether to extend it for another 90 days.

One mixed-use project on Hartle Road was up for approval during the April 14 council meeting, but it included a multi-family component. The case was postponed until Aug. 11.

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 FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

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