Lakewood Ranch Herald

Bond sale approved by LWR to complete Country Club East infrastructure

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Without fanfare or comment from onlookers following a scheduled public hearing Friday, the Lakewood Ranch Stewardship District Board of Supervisors approved the levying of special assessments and the authorization and sale of bonds not to exceed $15 million that will complete public infrastructure construction for the final phase of Country Club East.

The Country Club East subdivision of Lakewood Ranch, which is governed under the Stewardship District comprised of Schroeder-Manatee Ranch Inc. officials, developer representatives, engineers and finance consultants, approved the issuance of Special Assessment Revenue Bonds to cover more than $10 million of estimated improvements for public roads, water and drainage systems and common-area landscaping for the remaining parcel of the gated community east of Lorraine Road between State Road 70 north and University Parkway south.

The land is currently owned by Starwood Land Ventures, a subsidiary of Greenwich, Conn.-based Starwood Capital Group LLC, which has an office in Lakewood Ranch.

The private community already has 600 homes completed by a number of different builders and is expected to reach about 1,300 homes when construction is completed in the next several years.

As part of the stewardship, Country Club East is a separate entity from other Country Club communities of Lakewood Ranch who are governed by the Inter-District Authority and respective Community Development Districts 2,5, and 6.

Rex Jensen, chief executive officer of Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, the master developer of Lakewood Ranch, noted the issuance of the new bonds will have no financial bearing on current homeowners of Country Club East.

"I want to make certain the record confirms this fact and that residents grasp this clearly: This assessment has no impact on people who purchased homes in Country Club East," Jensen said, following the public hearing portion of the district meeting.

As market conditions have changed since the initial development plans for Country Club East, so, too, has the scope of the original plans and the cost of the project, according to Hank Fishkind, district manager and stewardship financial advisor,

"We have to be flexible as the market changes. We had the Great Recession, where people went from large homes to smaller homes that we had planned for. Now, people are going back to larger homes, so we have to be flexible when we're dealing with all this infrastructure," Fishkind told the board meeting at SMR headquarters.

John Cannon Homes, a Sarasota builder, reportedly is experiencing a broad range of future homeowners with different needs.

"Based on what I've heard, there's a mix of home buyers, from families that want four-bedroom homes to retirees very happy with 2,500-square-feet with several bedrooms and bathrooms, and we're in a good position to provide that flexibility," said Jim Pelisek said, a design-build specialist for Cannon Homes.

Former Country Club resident Susie Terrace, who moved with her family to Sarasota to be closer to her business, spent Friday morning touring model homes in the Haddington neighborhood of Country Club East, taking part in the week-long annual 2014 Tour of Homes. Terrace said she's been impressed by all the changes and growth in the master-planned community.

"It's nice to see what progress there is. We went from pigs running in our backyard to deer, and we didn't even have a Publix when I lived here. To see such a major metropolis, it's absolutely beautiful."

Kathryn Moschella, Lakewood Ranch reporter can be reached at 941-745-7010. Follow her on Twitter