Pasco County resurrected its quest for a deeper channel from SunWest Park to the Gulf of Mexico in 2016, but the year ended much like it began, with financial questions surrounding the county's private-sector partner — Gary Grubbs, president of Sun West Acquisition.
In January, the public learned the Internal Revenue Service had placed liens on all of Grubbs' property for more than $2.3 million in unpaid taxes due from 2008 to 2010.
Eleven months later, commissioners agreed to ask for the parameters of a federally required environmental study of the proposed channel dredge, costing up to $500,000, even though Grubbs hadn't committed to paying for it.
In between, environmentalists expressed aggravation in April that the county again was seeking an Army Corps of Engineers dredge permit that federal regulators had dismissed in 2014. The same environmentalists were giddy in November when the corps ordered a full environmental impact statement because the proposed dredge too closely resembled the earlier, rejected application.
Meanwhile, Sun West Acquisition also faced a $23.5 million foreclosure lawsuit from one of its affiliates, which contended Grubbs' company defaulted on the loan used a decade ago to secure acquisition of a mine west of U.S. 19. Sun West Acquisition is the corporate owner of that lime rock mine, which is planned to become the 1,076-acre Sunwest Harbourtown development of 2,500 homes, 250 hotel rooms, 300,000 square feet of space for stores and offices, 400 boat slips and an 18-hole golf course.
Under an agreement between the company and the county, Sun West Acquisition is responsible for all of the permitting and construction costs of the dredge of the channel, which separates the county-owned SunWest Park from the proposed resort.
C.T. Bowen, Times staff