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East County Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2010 7 years ago

Stewardship District sets stage for Central Park

by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

LAKEWOOD RANCH — Developers of some communities subscribe to a pay-as-you-go philosophy, constructing parks and other community amenities as they sell homes.

But Lakewood Ranch’s developers are determined to have all infrastructure in place before residents move in to their neighborhoods.

On Feb. 5, the Lakewood Ranch Stewardship District agreed to finance infrastructure improvements by issuing bonds for the future 795-home Central Park community and to adopt the process by which it would assess future residents.

A bond program is not yet in place, but it will be by the time Central Park opens to the public in July.

“This is setting the stage,” said the district’s chairman Rex Jensen, president and CEO of Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch.

Neal Communities, the company developing Central Park, already has completed more than 70% of infrastructure on the project and is paying for infrastructure until owner Pat Neal finds an attractive bond rate. If Neal cannot find an attractive rate, he will buy the bonds from the district himself, he said.

Hard infrastructure costs, which total more than $15 million, do not include the costs of roads, which will be private.

Under the approved debt allocation for master infrastructure, numbers indicate the debt allocation per lot would range between $20,242 and $34,387 over the life of a bond — likely 30 years. But those numbers are worst-case scenario, because the developer may opt to pay down debt rather than passing it to future residents, Jensen said.

When SMR built Summerfield, for example, homeowners paid only 14% of total infrastructure costs. If a lot had $25,000 in debt over a 30-year period, and homeowners paid 100% of the debt allocated per lot, annual assessments to each lot owner would be less than $850 annually. If residents paid only 14%, that assessment would be less than $120 annually.

How much Central Park residents will pay in assessments will be determined by the time sales begin this summer, but Jensen expects assessments to be considerably less than in other Stewardship District communities, the Lake Club and Country Club East.

Having a funding mechanism in place for infrastructure is imperative for ensuring residents of Central Park will be able to enjoy the community’s amenities the day they move in, Jensen said.

“I think the system is a nice balance of being able to build things and take care of things without burdening the residents,” he said. “When you move to Florida or any community, you don’t move in it to build it.”

In a normal community development district, homeowners assume responsibility for the district after there are 250 residents in that CDD or the passage of six years. In the Stewardship District, however, governance shifts from developer to homeowner control after there are 30,000 votes in the district, Jensen said.

“I’ll probably give (homeowners) control before it’s legally required,” Jensen said.

If that happens, the community’s HOA may take responsibility issues such as landscaping, which are controlled by CDDs in other districts.

The future Central Park community is located on the east side of Lakewood Ranch Boulevard between Malachite Drive and the 44th Avenue extension. Pope Road is its eastern border.

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].

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