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SCC residents get first look at possible future community concept

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Aiming for a polished image appealing to new buyers while serving interests of current residents, community leaders here have unveiled a multi-faceted $3 million project as part of long range planning.

By MELODY JAMESON

SUN CITY CENTER – Aiming for a polished image appealing to new buyers while serving interests of current residents, community leaders here have unveiled a multi-faceted $3 million project as part of long range planning.

The currently proposed construction, centered in the second of a three-phase plan looking ahead at least two decades, was introduced to some 400 residents during a community town hall session last week. Focused on two new buildings featuring the clean lines and futuristic facades reminiscent of designs by the late Frank Lloyd Wright, the building program was greeted with generally favorable reviews from the assembled retirees.

They variously described the proposals as “a great plan” and deemed them “excellent,” said they were “impressed with the drawings” and complimented the CA board members for “an outstanding job.”

Over ensuing days, however, some have raised questions and voiced cautions, concerned about the costs related to a prospective $2.4 million loan to be repaid over 10 years with revenue accruing from the so-called “transfer fees” paid by all buyers making first-time home purchases in the community.

Members of the SCC Community Association will be weighing in on aspects of the proposed capital improvements program with their votes, beginning in December. The phase two construction project and its proposed financing also could be a factor in the upcoming election of three directors to the CA board.

The long range planning, perhaps a first in the community’s 50-year history, calls for an initial phase slated to begin next month. The outdoor pool is scheduled to close December 1 as work begins on its enhancement, on updating pool rest rooms and on an outdoor spa, said Bob Black, CA vice president. This project is expected to be completed with placement of new pool furniture in six weeks to two months.

And the final phase, yet to be outlined, is foreseen as taking place many years in the future. It could deal with pinpointing additional recreational areas such as a 37-acre undeveloped piece west of Del Webb Blvd. and the now idle North Lakes Golf Course, along with a new theater, a new library, added Atrium parking and enhancements to Community Hall.

Meanwhile, the plan’s second stage involves a major overhaul of the community’s Central Campus on its north side. It proposes a multi-use building to house CA offices as well as headquarters of the community’s famed Security Patrol and to be located where those facilities currently exist on North Pebble Beach Boulevard. at Cherry Hills Drive.

As designed by SOL Design Studio in Tampa, an architectural firm engaged by CA leaders, the one-story structure features a cantilevered roof over a glass-enclosed lobby as an eye-catching element of its front elevation. From a utility standpoint, the building would provide expanded space for the various CA functions now crowded into cramped offices, incorporate the community information center and face Cherry Hills Drive.

The second new construction proposed for the Central Campus make-over is an entertainment building envisioned to the north of the office complex, located approximately where the most northern section of the lawn bowling greens now exist.

Facing Pebble Beach, its front elevation features a similarly cantilevered roof over the glassed entrance, bookending the western portion of the campus with aesthetically coordinated buildings. This campus addition, CA President Ed Barnes noted, would be designed to take bookings now turned away from the heavily used South Campus Community Hall and the Atrium’s Florida Room due to lack of open dates.

Both the CA offices and the Security Patrol headquarters would be temporarily relocated to trailers during an estimated eight-month construction period.

Yet another portion of the prospective campus overhaul involves construction of a café and wine bar in the existing plaza area between the Rollins Theater building and the Atrium, east of the outdoor pool. Identified as a priority during a survey of resident interests earlier this year, CA director Martin Hurwitz noted the café and sports bar offering light food and beverage service is seen as an informal community gathering place providing both indoor and outdoor seating easily accessible after events in the Atrium or theater presentations or a swim in one of the pools. It is likely such a facility would be operated by an outside vendor.

 It is the fiscal aspects of the second phase construction that are generating debate. A “pay-as-you-go” approach might be initiated in seven or eight years, board directors estimated. Facilities that can be used in the near future would require financing.

In order to break ground for the new buildings by the end of 2012, a bank loan of $2.4 million would be needed to supplement about $600,000 taken from the existing capital fund where $1,200 from each house sold to an incoming resident currently accumulates. The capital fund is expected to show a balance of $1 million by the end of 2011, and if used as part of the 2012 construction would leave $400,000 remaining as a financial cushion.

Moreover, if CA members were to support a by-laws change increasing the per-house assessment to incoming residents by $300 to $1,500, both the capital fund balance and the retained cushion would be greater.

CA directors have estimated that the full loan amount, repaid over 10 years at five percent interest, would require annual debt service – both payment on principal and interest – of $305,450. A calculation using the lowest average number of homes resold each year – 240, indicates the amount of money produced each year at $1,500 per home sold would be $360,000 – more than enough to cover such an annual debt service. However, if the community does not support the by-laws change and the per-house fee remains at $1,200, the annual amount produced would be $288,000, or, theoretically, about $13,500 short of the debt service minimum.

Assuming the estimated annual debt service is correct and relying on all the other variables as estimated, over a 10 year span the $2.4 million loan would be repaid in the amount of $3,054,500, putting the cost of borrowing the money at $654,500.

The loan would not be a mortgage because no real property would be used as collateral, Black said. Rather, it would be the projected income of the resold home fees accumulating in the capital fund that would be pledged as collateral for the loan, he added – “that, and the full faith of Sun City Center.”

It’s not the numbers, though, but the very existence of indebtedness that has led some residents to promise a “no” vote. Dave Brown, a long-time community advocate, told The Observer this week he opposes any debt for any reason and cannot support debt financing. Brown agreed the CA needs more space to function competently and to meet various resident requirements, but questioned the reasoning for a Central Campus café, for example. Pointing to construction in recent years of the arts and crafts building on Cherry Hills Drive and the fitness center adjacent to the Atrium without incurring debt, he suggested the same approach for any other improvements to campus facilities.

Cal Kimura takes issue with several aspects of second phase proposal, concerned that the full story is not being told. Despite statements by SOL architect Carlos Molnar that the jutting roofs of the two proposed new buildings will withstand hurricane level winds, Kimura doubts their structural integrity. A 200 mph wind – a category five hurricane – “and they’re going to fly away,” he said. Kimura also voiced concern that the shuffleboard players were not advised their Central Campus courts would have to be moved to the South Campus to make room for any new construction. Leaders, he added, “should be honest with people.” And when it comes to money, he labeled as “bogus” CA suggestions that the new buildings would not result in added costs passed on to residents. More space will require more maintenance and it’s likely to be covered by dues increases in years ahead, he asserted.

Albert Clark, like Kimura, objects to the new building design, but for a different reason. The styling is so “1948,” he said, adding that the new buildings do not coordinate with any others on the campus. The retro look is “just a way to spend money,” he asserted. Regarding other aspects, Clark questioned whether serving alcohol near the outdoor pool as proposed for the new café “is a good idea,” suggested that “Security Patrol does not need a fancy building” or to be “showy” and wondered whether outdoor events such as the annual Fun Fest could be produced on the new patio in the midst of the abundant new landscaping planned.

On the other hand, Clark agreed that the CA offices “are in bad shape” and that costs of borrowing money are less now, along with the costs of construction in a depressed economy. The objective is not to spend money “just to be spending it,” he added, the objective is “to invest without throwing money” at the problem.

Clark, Kimura and Brown all share sentiments with two of the five candidates currently seeking election to three seats on the CA board. Both Rob King and Paul Sasville, newcomers to the annual election process, have expressed reluctance to incur debt in the present uncertain economy, while Al Alderman and Jane Keegan, sitting first term directors, along with Howie Griffin, a former director, are solidly in favor of the proposed facelift and related financing.

Deadline for the election balloting, as well as voting up or down on a dues increase to $263 annually, is Dec. 7 and 8. CA members also have been voting using an absentee ballot provided in their monthly CA newsletter.

A week later, on Dec. 15, residents will choose by voting whether to increase the “transfer fee” to $1,500 per house sold to a newcomer. Their last opportunity to support or reject the Central Campus proposals in whatever form they have taken by that time will come February 13 and 14, 2012, when CA members will decide the shape of their valentine to their community.

Copyright 2011 Melody Jameson

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