Land next to proposed motorsports park on W192 to be sold at auction

A vacant 40-acre parcel that's adjacent to the proposed $100 million Orlando Motorsports Park (OMP) will be sold at auction on Sept. 7.

The Four Corners site is southwest of the W192 - S.R. 429 interchange, and only minutes from Disney's Animal Kingdom and Margaritaville Resort. 

So why hasn't it sold before? The property, which is landlocked and almost entirely wetlands, has been tied up in U.S. Bankruptcy Court since 1999. Jack and Cheryl Schmitt, who own a 25 percent interest in the property, filed for voluntary Chapter 7. 

The court had approved three previous sales, including a $5.7 million offer in 2005. The most recent in early 2016 for $2 million to the developer of nearby West Lucaya Resort. But none of the sales ever closed.

"I've never seen a bankruptcy case go on this long," Fisher Auction Company CEO Lamar Fisher told GrowthSpotter on Friday. "When I asked for the case number they said it started with 99, I said 'Holy Mackerel!' I don't know why someone didn't initiate a sale sooner."

Fisher said he was contacted by the heirs of Ruth Nemac, who own a 50 percent stake in the property and are not in bankruptcy. Jack Schmitt's brother owns the remaining 25 percent stake, Fisher said.

In the last two years, two prospective buyers requested pre-application meetings with Osceola County's planning staff. One developer was looking to develop 120 townhomes with a 40,000-square-foot clubhouse, two pools and an on-site restaurant. The other envisioned a condo hotel with 800 tiny homes built around a large lake amenity.

Both developers withdrew their requests before the meetings ever took place. 

The property is currently zoned Agricultural Conservation, but it has a future land use of Tourist Commercial. The owners currently have a 30-foot access easement, but a buyer would have to negotiate a larger cross-access easement to develop the property. The developer also would be required to mitigate wetlands, likely through a mitigation bank and on-site retention, according to an environmental study conducted in 2005.

Still, Fisher is confident the sale will attract multiple bidders. The site immediately north of the auction parcel is approved for a 326-unit apartment complex. It sold last year for $6.3 million to a Texas-based developer who has applied for building permits to start construction.

The $750 million Margaritaville Resort, scheduled to open next year, is just a mile away. The nearby Westside Boulevard corridor is also booming with new vacation home resorts and residential construction.

"The timing is perfect," Fisher said. "Everything is lining up perfectly to maximize the value of the property."

The 217 acres to the east is under contract to racing enthusiast Andy Bardar, who plans to build a motorsports-themed retail center and tourist attraction with a go-kart track, 1-mile test track and a private racing track for club members.

Bardar's OMP site plan is slated to go to the county's Development Review Committee on Sept. 6 -- the day before the auction. But even more critical: Bardar's application for a Noise Variance that would allow the sound levels up to 90 decibels goes to the county's Board of Adjustment on Sept. 19. 

Even with a 3-meter sound wall along the western boundary of the club track, noise from the facility would routinely exceed the 55-decibel limit allowed by code, according to a noise study by Power Acoustics, Inc. 

Fisher said he expects that registered bidders, who must tender a $100,000 deposit in escrow to pre-qualify, will have performed their due diligence before the auction. He started marketing the property about a month ago, and so far no one has asked for a delay because of the noise variance request.

"It hasn't been an issue," he said. "These individuals will be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop the property. I expect they're pretty keen on what's happening around them."

So far, Margaritaville Resort, Orange Lakes Resort and Walt Disney World have not taken public positions regarding the noise variance. CLC Encantada Resort, which is just south of the auction property and also adjacent to the OMP site, has hired an attorney to fight the noise variance. 

Fisher said bidders typically wait until the last minute to register for the auction. The winning bidder must pay a 10 percent fee on top of the bid amount to cover the auction and closing costs, and the bankruptcy judge must approve the sale at a hearing scheduled for Sept. 12.

"The crystal ball question is what's it going to bring at auction," he said. "I don't know, but I think somebody's going to get a good buy."

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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