Friday, April 20, 2018
Business

Liens mount against Sun West owner

The owner of the land targeted for an upscale waterfront resort and large-scale residential community in Aripeka faces federal tax liens totaling more than $2.3 million.

The IRS placed liens on all property belonging to John G. "Gary'' Grubbs, 56, the president of Sun West Acquisition Corp., in 2013 and 2014 for $2,334,610 in unpaid taxes due from 2008 to 2010, according to documents filed with the Pasco Clerk of Circuit Court's Office.

"We have made a demand for payment of this liability, but it remains unpaid," the federal tax liens state. Efforts to reach Grubbs for comment were unsuccessful.

Sun West Acquisition is the corporate owner of an active lime rock mine that is planned to become SunWest Harbourtowne. Pasco County approved plans for the 1,076-acre development more than five years ago. It would include 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. Its biggest supporters view the project as the cornerstone to redeveloping west Pasco's aging commercial buildings and residential housing stock. Environmentalists, however, have objected to the plans, saying the public would be better served if the land became a preserve.

The tax troubles aren't limited to the federal government. The state Department of Revenue filed a tax warrant, the equivalent of a lien, on April 1, 2014, saying Sun West Acquisition was $7,769 in arrears on sales tax payments. The delinquencies even extended to Pasco County, though a December 2014 lien for an overdue solid waste assessment of $1,812 was satisfied five months later.

An IRS spokesman said the agency would not say whether it had taken other action against Grubbs or if he had attempted to pay down the tax debt since the lien filings.

There has been action on different fronts, however. Last month, court filings in Pasco Circuit Court identified Sun West Acquisition as a debtor to two entities controlled by the other corporate officers of Sun West — Brooksville attorney Thomas Hogan Jr. and certified public accountant R. Victor Taglia. The Aripeka land is listed as collateral.

Taglia declined comment. Hogan did not respond to requests for comment through his law office.

Hogan and Taglia are the principals of Darien GCR Inc. of Florida, a newly reorganized for-profit corporation that filed its state incorporation papers in November. Taglia also is listed as the organizer of Dial One-One LLC in Cheyenne, Wyo. The two companies are named as secured parties on separate state commercial code financing statements filed seven minutes apart on the afternoon of Dec. 3 at the Pasco Circuit Court Clerk's Office.

The filings are security agreements, triggering automatic liens and creating a public notice that the companies have a secured interest in the Sun West Acquisition property. Orlando attorney Thomas P. Wert, who handled the filings, declined comment.

The planned SunWest Harbourtowne, west of U.S. 19 and south of Aripeka Road, is to the immediate north of the county-owned SunWest Park, which opened six months ago. The parcels are separated by a canal for which the county and SunWest Harbourtowne tried unsuccessfully to obtain a federal dredging permit — an attempt that was ongoing simultaneous to the IRS lien filings.

The SunWest Harbourtowne land had been for sale as early as 2007, before the owners received government approval to develop it. Grubbs has said previously — prior to the Army Corps of Engineers denying the permit application — that his asking price for the property's development rights was $100 million.

Despite the tax woes, Grubbs has donated equipment, materials and manpower to help complete the initial phase of the county park. Commissioner Jack Mariano estimated the value of Grubbs' donations at $4 million. Grubbs also continued to contribute to political campaigns. He was listed as the first donor at a Nov. 10 fundraiser for Mariano, giving $1,000 to the commissioner's re-election campaign.

Mariano said in late December he had no knowledge of Grubbs' IRS liens.

In years past, Sun West Acquisition has paid its Pasco County property tax bills late as a matter of routine. Currently, the company is up to date on its property tax payments with bills of $24,748 due by April 1. The 18 parcels owned by Sun West carried an appraised value for 2015 of more than $1.77 million, according to the Pasco Property Appraiser's Office. Grubbs also is current on property taxes owed in Hernando County after paying delinquent tax bills on a Hernando Beach home and lot in August 2015.

Grubbs told the Tampa Bay Times two years ago that the tardy property tax payments were not problematic.

"Our taxes will be paid. There is no money problem," he said. "We have big plans, and at the end of the day, that (back taxes) will not stop this train."

Those comments came nine months after the IRS already had placed a multimillion-dollar lien against him.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

Comments
Goodwill to open second store in greater Brandon

Goodwill to open second store in greater Brandon

Times staffThe greater Brandon area will celebrate the grand opening of its second Goodwill store beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday (April 28) at 1407 U.S. 301. The new store will add another 12,000 square feet to the complex, which includes a 200,000-...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Regulators allow major solar company to lease home equipment

Regulators allow major solar company to lease home equipment

State regulators Friday determined that one of the country’s largest residential solar companies, San Francisco-based Sunrun, is allowed to lease solar energy equipment for homes in Florida. The decision, solar energy advocates say, could open the do...
Published: 04/20/18
Florida unemployment at 3.9 percent for sixth straight month

Florida unemployment at 3.9 percent for sixth straight month

For the sixth month running, Florida’s unemployment rate held at a nearly 11-year low of 3.9 percent in March as steady job gains continued. While many factors kept Florida’s economy chugging along, three industries stand out for leading year-over-ye...
Published: 04/20/18
Owners say new house is a disaster; developer accuses them of ‘online terrorism’

Owners say new house is a disaster; developer accuses them of ‘online terrorism’

ST. PETERSBURG --- Stretched across the front of Tim and Hyun Kims’ two-year-old house is a big banner with the name of a developer and the words: "I have to fix my new house."Some of what needs fixing is instantly apparent. The front steps are too ...
Published: 04/20/18
Florida hits a milestone: More than 100,000 people are registered to use medical marijuana here

Florida hits a milestone: More than 100,000 people are registered to use medical marijuana here

Florida has hit a milestone of sorts as it slowly moves toward wider availability of medical marijuana.The number of patients in the state who are registered to use the substance has surpassed 100,000 for the first time, according to Florida Departme...
Published: 04/20/18
Q&A: Walmart leader chats about Florida stores, and the chain’s latest retail strategy

Q&A: Walmart leader chats about Florida stores, and the chain’s latest retail strategy

The Tampa Bay Times recently sat down with Walmart director of corporate communications Phillip Keene to chat about the retail giant’s latest retail strategies and how the company is winning over customers in a competitive market.Already, two of the ...
Published: 04/20/18
Judge: Foreclosure defense lawyer Mark Stopa violated numerous rules of conduct

Judge: Foreclosure defense lawyer Mark Stopa violated numerous rules of conduct

Tampa Bay foreclosure defense lawyer Mark Stopa has violated numerous rules of professional conduct and caused two clients to nearly lose their homes because he failed to tell them about settlement offers from their banks. In preliminary findings of ...
Published: 04/20/18
SunTrust warns 1.5 million clients of potential data breach

SunTrust warns 1.5 million clients of potential data breach

Associated PressNEW YORK — SunTrust Banks Inc. says accounts for 1.5 million clients could be compromised following a potential data breach. The Atlanta bank says that it became aware of the potential theft by a former employee and that the investiga...
Published: 04/20/18
Spring break, hurricane relief boosted Tampa Bay hotels in March

Spring break, hurricane relief boosted Tampa Bay hotels in March

The Tampa Bay area’s hotel occupancy rate rose to 87.5 percent in March, the highest level in three years. The rise was fueled by spring break vacationers as well as insurance adjusters and hurricane cleanup crews flooding the state to restore it aft...
Published: 04/20/18
Sunday Conversation: Attorney Leigh Fletcher let’s passion for community guide her

Sunday Conversation: Attorney Leigh Fletcher let’s passion for community guide her

Attorney Leigh Fletcher split her childhood between Columbus, Ga., and Florida’s St. George Island, developing a love for the ocean. She’s a diver, she loves coral, but she never imagined she would end up owning a pair of water treatment laboratories...
Updated: 2 hours ago