Fears unfounded about hold up of property transfer to new developer

Published on: June 24, 2010


   SUN CITY CENTER – This community’s soon-to-retire developer, WCI, again has been cited for violation related to maintenance of its idled North Lakes Golf Course.
However, concerns spreading through the community that the Hillsborough County code enforcement issues could affect or delay scheduled transfer of remaining buildable acreage to a new developer this week were unfounded – and for several reasons.
   Those reasons centered on the facts that the maintenance issues pertain only to the single golf course and that the course is not part of the property transfer from WCI to Minto Communities, plus that the code enforcement action is solely a citation which does not constitute a lien on either the old golfing facility or on any other WCI holding.
   About two weeks ago, prompted by complaints from homeowners whose yards border the north course, county enforcement personnel verified by visual inspection and then issued a citation based on untended overgrowth of the closed course, Bill Langford, a code enforcement manager, told The Observer last week.  It was the second such citation issued to WCI, which currently is seeking one or more buyers for all seven of its golf courses in SCC and the neighboring Kings Point condominium community.
   Asked about any potential impact on the property transfer from WCI to Minto scheduled for Tuesday, June 22, Langford emphasized that the June 8 action by his department was only a citation involving only WCI and only one of its properties. As for the citation becoming a lawfully filed lien attaching to any WCI holding, Langford pointed out a hearing before the county’s code enforcement board would be required first and such a hearing at the earliest would have to be set two or more months from now. Such a hearing would transpire long after the scheduled sales transaction which, after all, does not involve the golf course property.
   Langford indicated he has not yet referred the current citation – Case No. CE1008028 – for consideration by the code enforcement board. He did acknowledge that if the case were to be referred and if the board were to establish and file a lien naming WCI for non-compliance, that lien could attach to all WCI properties in Florida, not merely to its holdings in Hillsborough County.  
   But, none of this scenario seemed at all likely, William Bullock, Minto vice president for its West Central Florida region, asserted early this week. On Monday, less than 24 hours before the slated formal purchase transaction, Bullock said he expected the closing to proceed Tuesday morning on schedule, with no glitches posed by WCI’s citation.
   Because the citation subject property, a WCI golf course, is not included in the sales transaction, the citation is an entirely moot matter from Minto’s perspective, the executive indicated. But even if the citation were a consideration, Bullock noted it would be extraordinary for such a matter to interfere with a multi-million dollar transaction when there are simple low-cost resolutions that could be implemented.
   Similarly, John Luper, WCI’s regional general manager for amenities in SCC, affirmed Monday that to the best of his knowledge the scheduled closing was on track as planned. He also agreed that ­neither the citation nor its subject golf course had any roles in the sale arrangements.
    Luper added that he received the June 8 citation over the weekend – more than 10 days after its dated issuance – because it apparently had been sent initially to WCI corporate headquarters in Bonita Springs where personnel identified it as a SCC matter and then forwarded it to him. The WCI ­executive said it appears the county agency is seeking maintenance of a 200-foot-wide perimeter around the north lakes course, creating a mowed buffer between homeowner yards and the rolling acreage of the former golf playing holes.  
   The amenities manager said Monday he needs a “clarification” of the citation from the county agency and indicated compliance could be forthcoming shortly.
©2010 Melody Jameson