An Ohio developer received a rude awakening Wednesday about what may be allowed to be built on a 12.2-acre former pig farm in Lake Mary that it took a majority stake in last week.
Capital Investment Group of Cincinnati, which wanted to build 300 apartments on the property along International Parkway, was told by Seminole County planners the proposed unit count may not be consistent with the future land use designation for that property.
Currently, the allowance for residences falls between 100 and 200, said Jonathan Martin of Kimley-Horn and Associates, which is representing Capital Investment.
Other uses in the proposed project -- a 200-room hotel, an 80,000-square-foot office building, a 15,000-square-foot restaurant and 40,000 square feet of retail space -- are still allowed, Martin said.
Martin and Gregg Fusaro, a partner with Capital Investment who joined the pre-app meeting remotely via conference call, tried to make a case that the permitted uses from 2006 -- when original plans were first submitted -- should stand. Martin said there was "a huge disconnect" between what was allowed a decade ago and what is allowed now.
But county staff confirmed Wednesday that a comprehensive plan amendment regarding density in the Future Land Use Map was adopted by county commissioners in December 2008, before the applicant had their Planned Development amendment approved in January 2009.
"It is unfair for a developer under a Planned Development to think it has approval and that has changed," Martin said. "The owner would like the flexibility to come in with a clean slate and not have to go through all the approvals."
Discussed was the option of meeting with county commissioners on an individual basis to familiarize them with the situation, or requesting a major amendment to the county's land use plan.
Martin said he would discuss options with his client. Fusaro did not respond to requests for comment.
The property, which was initially approved as the "Gunter Village" planned development, is at 3300 International Pkwy just north of Colonial Town Park, and south of the ramp that leads to S.R. 417.
The parcel used to be a pig farm owned by Max Gunter, who on his deathbed about 15 years ago snubbed his family by simultaneously adopting an orphan he had bonded with and willed the land to the man, Rene Hargis.
As a young man, Hargis had killed some of Gunter's pigs, but returned years later to confess.
He was told by Gunter to get out on the property and work the land to make amends.
When Max Gunter died a few years later, Hargis changed his name to Max's, in homage to his benefactor. People called him "ReneMax."
Hargis disbanded the pig farm and entered into an agreement with a Tennessee developer just before the market crashed, which stopped the building plans.
The property ended up in foreclosure and Hargis got in touch with attorney Tucker Byrd, who had represented him in the will dispute, and together, they were able to restructure the loan and hold on to the property. Byrd's fee was partial ownership in the land.
Capital Investment Group entered the picture fortuitously, Byrd said. "They were looking for nice properties and fell in love with this one."
In return for an equity infusion, Capital Investments took a 75 percent stake in the property.
Plans are for Capital Investment to develop the apartments, while the firm also works with Hargis and Byrd to prepare the rest of the property for building. Tucker said the resultant pads will be sold off or leased.
Capital Investment bought the majority stake from Richbyrd Gunter LLC, an entity whose principles are Charley Max Gunter of Sorrento and Byrd of Winter Park, who was at personal injury law firm Morgan & Morgan before starting his own practice in Winter Park.
Capital Investment paid $5.99 million for the majority stake in the parcel.
Richbyrd Gunter LLC paid $7.96 million for the property, records show.