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The City of Eustis has agreed to sell 198 acres of city property to a veteran group of developers who have an adjacent 200 acres nearby.
The City of Eustis has agreed to sell 198 acres of city property to a veteran group of developers who have an adjacent 200 acres nearby. (Handout)

The Eustis City Commission approved selling 198 acres of city property once used as a spray field for treated sewer effluent to a group with plans to create a single-family housing development.

Sorrento Pines LLC has agreed to buy the Lake County land declared surplus by the city for $1.5 million, plus the promise to deed two acres back to the city for a park. The land buyers plan to add the spray field land to 200 adjacent acres it already owns to create a subdivision, said Charles Clayton III, one of five partners involved.

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A state certified appraiser valued the city's land at $1.7 million and the Lake County Property Appraiser has it valued at $918,000.

The buyer has 120 days to close on the property, giving the group enough time to make sure that it can get the property zoning and state approval, if necessary, for the neighborhood development.

Clayton said the group would sell lots to builders. The plan is to create a neighborhood with buffers to give the neighborhood a natural look.

They intend to meet with the city this week to start the planning process.

The total number of lots isn't determined yet because the land needs to be rezoned and vetted through the city and state, Clayton said. The group has worked together on other such developments, including Horizon West, Avalon and Spring Hill for some 14 years.

The group bought the 200 acres from a seller who acquired the land during the recession under distress.

"We have been working on it with the city for 12 months trying to put this together," Clayton said.

Clayton's partners in Sorrento Pines LLC are Bill Roll, Thomas Hewitt, Robert Hewitt and Jamie Poulos.

Clayton said he is not sure when his group will break ground on the development. They have their eyes on the economy, trying to guess where they are in the real estate cycle.

"My dad (a developer) used to say, 'Land is like a farm, and you have to wait until the proper time to harvest it,'" he said.

Clayton grew up in a family of developers.

"We were brought up in the business of sitting on people's front porches while my dad was trying to buy their land," he said.

While the city waits for the sale, it continues to receive revenue from the pasture by leasing it to a cattle rancher for grazing at a rate of $15,000 a year.
Teresa Burney can be reached at 352-455-1955 or at Teresaburney4@gmail.com. Follow GrowthSpotter on FacebookTwitterand LinkedIn.
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