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Plans for Hideaway subdivision on hold

A slowing housing market may have prompted dueling lawsuits.

By DAN DEWITT
Published January 26, 2007


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BROOKSVILLE - Plans for the Lake Hideaway subdivision, one of the largest proposed in the county's recent history, are on hold after the Tampa developer sued the owner of the property in northwest Hernando - retired mining executive Tommy Bronson.

Metro Development LLC of Tampa is seeking $2-million it had paid into an escrow account as part of the 2005 sales agreement with Bronson, who is listed as a trustee of the Lake Hideaway Revocabale Trust.

Metro claims the trust was not able to ensure the land was free of other ownership claims, as the agreement required, before the closing date of Oct. 31, 2006.

Two days after this suit was filed, on Nov. 27, 2006, Bronson and the trust sued back, saying Metro had defaulted on the contract by failing to make a payment due on closing or the $300,000 needed to extend the contract.

"The owner didn't get us everything we were supposed to receive before the closing," said John Heagney, Metro spokesman.

"Because of that, we're not going ahead with that project."

Darryl Johnston, the Brooksville lawyer representing Bronson, said the only claims on the land were historic county roadways that crossed the property but had never been developed; Metro was initially concerned these might block the development's access to U.S. 19.

But Johnston said Bronson had proof from a title company that this matter had been resolved before the closing date.

"It's a non-issue," Johnston said, though he could not explain why Metro had filed the suit.

Heagney said he could not comment in detail because the dispute would be decided in court. But he earlier said that Metro had delayed the closing on two other land purchases near Interstate 75 because of the slowing housing market.

"That's certainly a factor," Heagney said.

A year ago, Metro announced plans to build Lake Hideaway, with 3,700 residential units and 180,000 square feet of shopping, east of U.S. 19 and south of Hexam Road.

That is about the same size as Seville, a long-dormant golf community that is north of Bronson's parcel on U.S. 19. Since the approval of the Royal Highlands subdivision in 1972, only Sunrise - a Development of Regional Impact near I-75 with a proposed 4,800 houses and townhouses - is larger.

Metro, which also has offices in Orlando and Jacksonville, specializes in acquiring parcels, securing development approval and building roads and laying utility lines. It then sells the developments to large builders such as KB Homes and Lennar.

It has also signed contracts to buy two parcels from Ridge Manor dairyman Lee Pedone. Heagney said on Wednesday the company had renegotiated these agreements to delay closing because of the slowing housing market.

Bronson is also a part owner of Sunrise, whose developer defaulted on its sales agreement in November. Bronson and the other owners - banker Jim Kimbrough, real estate broker Robert Buckner and Hale McKethan, a rancher and businessman - have said they will push that project through the approval process.

Bronson was not available Wednesday to say whether he would do the same with Lake Hideaway.

Dan DeWitt can be reached at (352) 754-6116 or dewitt@sptimes.com.

[Last modified January 25, 2007, 22:57:11]


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