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Land owner's plans locked behind gate


© St. Petersburg Times, published June 23, 2000

WESTCHASE -- When a new subdivision is about to begin construction, often the first things built are the fancy entrance gates.

Then the home builders go on about their home-building business behind the walls of privacy.

So when Tom F. Brown built a lovely gated entrance bearing the name Tree Tops at the front of his property on Montague Street, his neighbors in Westchase became very curious. And a bit nervous.

"There's all kinds of rumors about that," said Harold Hackney, a representative from the Fords neighborhood, which abuts Brown's 100-acre property. "There's rumors that he's going to put very high-priced homes in there. Then there's the other one that he's going to put high-priced condos in there. I'm surprised he built that fancy gate."

Pam Prysner, who sits on several neighborhood committees in Westchase, said the entrance has got people talking.

"We've been curious," Prysner said. "The only thing I'd heard is that there were to be executive homes there on large lots. But that's just the rumor that's been floating around."

"He's being really evasive about what he's doing," said Debbie Jones, director of marketing for Terrabrook, the developer of Westchase. "We're not even sure, but he's not talking about it."

Brown, 74, doesn't have much to say on the subject.

"I've got 100 acres and a tree farm and a residence back there," said Brown, a longtime area lawyer. "Someday, who knows what will happen? You'll hear about it when it happens. We're not ready to move to St. Pete Beach just yet."

But Mark Eilers, a real estate broker who has done deals with Brown in the past, said Brown has made no secret of his long-term intentions.

"In the future, it will be a single-family development," Eilers said. "He's got it cleared where eventually roads would go in and you can see where the houses will ultimately go."

But that's not likely to happen for quite some time, Eilers said.

"At this point, he's going to live out his life back there in solitude," Eilers said. "This is 15, 20 years down the road. Nothing to get excited about."

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