Make us your home page
Instagram

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.

Liens mount against Sun West owner 01/14/16 [Last modified: Thursday, January 14, 2016 11:32am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pinellas licensing board asks Sen. Jack Latvala for $500,000 loan

    Local Government

    The troubled Pinellas County agency that regulates contractors wants Sen. Jack Latvala to help it get a $500,000 lifeline from the state to stay afloat.

    State Sen . Jack Latvala, R- Clearwater, is being asked to help the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board get $500,000 from the state so it can stay open beyond February.  [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  2. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally

    Business

    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  3. Tampa Club president seeks assessment fee from members

    News

    TAMPA — The president of the Tampa Club said he asked members last month to pay an additional assessment fee to provide "additional revenue." However, Ron Licata said Friday that the downtown business group is not in a dire financial situation.

    Ron Licata, president of the Tampa Club in downtown Tampa. [Tampa Club]
  4. Under Republican health care bill, Florida must make up $7.5 billion

    Markets

    If a Senate bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 becomes law, Florida's government would need to make up about $7.5 billion to maintain its current health care system. The bill, which is one of the Republican Party's long-promised answers to the Affordable Care Act imposes a cap on funding per enrollee …

    Florida would need to cover $7.5 billion to keep its health care program under the Republican-proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  [Times file photo]
  5. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]