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Sun West's Harbourtowne site is on the market

The developer says the property, which is tied to a canal deal with the county, has "always been for sale." Critics cite environmental concerns.

By CHUIN-WEI YAP
Published June 1, 2007


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HUDSON - For sale: 2, 300 acres fronting almost 4 miles of the Gulf of Mexico, with more than 350 acres of spring-fed lakes.

Downside: Comes with some unhappy neighbors worried about the development's environmental impact.

Sun West Acquisition Corp. wants to sell its proposed Sunwest Harbourtowne development and has listed it on a high-traffic commercial real estate Web site.

"It's always been for sale and it will continue to be on the market, " said Honey Rand, Sun West's spokeswoman. "Until the owners decide to sell it or build it themselves."

No buyers yet, Rand said, but "a number of companies" have approached Sun West. Talks are "very premature, " she said.

Sun West has been working to develop conceptual plans for the site, but it has not yet filed any formal development applications. Plans include 2, 670 homes, an 18-hole golf course, a 250-room hotel and convention center, and 540, 000 square feet of stores and offices.

Pasco County officials have an agreement with Sun West to dredge a canal from the development out to the gulf, said County Attorney Robert Sumner. Pasco owns half the canal, he said.

But county officials are not too worried by the prospect of a different developer coming in.

The agreement to develop the canal runs with the property, not the developer, Sumner said. This means that whoever buys the property will have to deliver that canal.

"They have the responsibility to get it built and permitted," he said.

The county also plans a 312-acre park, across from Sun West's proposed inland marina. Pasco got $3-million to develop the park as part of a legal settlement on the property's ownership.

Sumner said county officials expect to complete it only by the time the development gets its approval.

In March, Pasco pulled the park out of Sunwest's development plans. County staff said this would allow Pasco to develop the park at its own pace.

Some residents and environmentalists have vowed to block the development.

For one thing, they argue that the canal would destroy sea grass that lines the area's coastal marshes. Sun West officials say they have found a route through the marsh that has no sea grass, but opponents are skeptical.

"I'm extremely doubtful that they can find a path that would avoid some seriously damaging environmental effect," said Mac Davis, a trustee of the Gulf Coast Conservancy.

Environmentalists also have warned that the development threatens wildlife, including black bears and a fishing hot spot at Fillman's Bayou off Hudson. In response, Sun West has designated a black bear corridor, an eagles' nest area and nearly 1, 500 acres of green preserve.

Chuin-Wei Yap can be reached at (813) 909-4613 or cyap@sptimes.com.

[Last modified June 1, 2007, 00:36:17]


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