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Cannon Ranch developer adds, subtracts

Add plans for condos and a shopping district. Subtract some homes and commercial space.

By JAMES THORNER

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 26, 2000


SAN ANTONIO -- Owners of the Cannon Ranch, a 2,000-acre site already approved for more than 5,000 homes, have beefed up their development plans to include 1,500 resort condominiums and a pedestrian-friendly shopping district.

The change is designed to facilitate the development of a property, about a mile east of Interstate 75 on State Road 52, that has suffered for more than a decade from unfulfilled expectations.

The ranch is perhaps best known as the prospective site of Charlie Daniels Western World, a proposed country-western-themed amusement park that never got off the ground. An auto racing track proposal also was stymied. It was during a Monday meeting with Pasco County planners that representatives of landowner Leon Heron Jr. proposed several alterations to a development plan first approved in 1989.

Instead of the 5,956 homes, developers suggest downsizing to 5,200 homes. In compensation for fewer homes, developers want permission to build 1,500 "resort condominiums," some time-shares.

Half of the homes and condominiums will target people 55 and over. To accommodate younger homeowners, developers propose donating two sites for elementary schools.

Developers' plans also call for slashing the amount of commercial space from 565,000 square feet to 183,000 square feet.

Heron wants to tuck most of the stores and restaurants in a "Village District" providing what developers call "a typical small town environment" catering to residents' "commercial, entertainment, recreational and cultural needs."

"The Village District is also intended to encourage non-automobile means of transportation, including pedestrian, bicycle and golf cart," according to the application submitted to the county.

Rounding out the plans are two 18-hole golf courses, a clubhouse and two parks, one ringing an artificial lake.

As in the previously approved version of the development, the new plan calls for construction to last through 2009.

Still unclear is whether Heron will be the principal developer or will transfer development rights to someone else.

Heron, incorporated under the name Thompson Station Enterprises L.L.C., bought the land from the Cannon family last year for $7-million.

Del Webb Corp., the nation's largest developer of retirement communities, has scouted the ranch as a site for a 5,000-home retirement community.

Del Webb spokesman Kyle Reinson said the amenities proposed by Heron are similar to those offered by his company. But he said Del Webb played no part in the recent changes.

"We're still not ready to announce anything yet," Reinson said.

The additions and alterations to the plans still need approval from the county commissioners. Developers have three years from the approval date to start construction.

Officials at Corporate Analytics, the California company pursuing development leads for the landowner, couldn't be reached for comment.

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