BRADENTON -- About halfway into its 120-day due diligence period, WCI Communities has dropped out of a $10.5 million purchase agreement for more than 200 acres of undeveloped city land west of Bill Evers Reservoir in East Manatee.
The reservoir, which includes Jiggs Landing, sits between State Road 70 and Honore Avenue west of Interstate 75. The undeveloped acreage is west of the reservoir, which is surrounded on three sides by existing development.
The agreement was finalized in early November after months of presentations from qualified developers. WCI was chosen in June, but it took several more months to come to an agreement, which has now been negated.
City officials chose Bonita Springs-based WCI Communities over two other finalists. WCI was not the highest bidder but it offered the lowest density project com
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pared with D.R. Horton and Taylor Morrison.
Fort Worth, Texas-based D.R. Horton offered $11 million and proposed more than 500 units.
Taylor Morrison of Bradenton proposed the same, but offered only $10 million.
City officials Wednesday learned of the purchase agreement termination with the only explanation WCI had completed soil sample surveys and was concerned about moving forward. A WCI representative did not immediately return a call for comment.
City officials, speculated the reason could be WCI Communities is restructuring its management.
City Clerk Carl Callahan said the city will have WCI's soil samples reviewed, but there is no immediate indication the samples would stop any other developer from moving forward.
"They just decided it wasn't for them," said Callahan. "They assured us that it wasn't a play to reduce the value of the land. They just wanted to terminate."
Even before Callahan notified the council Wednesday, D.R. Horton and Taylor Morrison officials contacted the city with renewed interest. Callahan said the city is interested in speaking with the home developers again but would reopen the process to everyone.
"We want to get a letter of intent to sell circulating again," said Callahan. "If those two want to revise something they've already presented, it's up to them."
Mayor Wayne Poston said he didn't want to speculate on WCI's reasoning, but did indicate it could be because of the leadership restructuring.
"This is not the only project WCI has pulled out of recently," Poston said. "It looks like they are reorganizing and have hired some new leadership."
Ward 1 Councilman Gene Gallo was the only one who voted against the WCI deal.
"I'm not going to say, 'I told you so.' But I'm going to take this opportunity to remind my colleagues that I was very hurt by one comment made when dealing with this issue of not getting enough money," said Gallo. "That particular person said our integrity would be questioned when I asked for this council to reopen negotiations. It's very plain to me that this person does not know the definition of negotiation. It's funny to me now that WCI is able to pull out without their integrity in question based on soil samples that other developers wouldn't even consider an issue."