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Private island off Homosassa for sale; bids start at $90,000

HOMOSASSA

In the market to buy a home? Why not buy a private island?

Crow's Nest Island, an acre of cypress, mangroves and wild palms at the mouth of the Homosassa River, will go out to bid next month starting at $90,000.

Its Pompano Beach auctioneers, the Fisher Auction Co., said Friday it would make for "an excellent private estate, boating club or fishing lodge."

Five miles west of Homosassa and 70 miles north of Tampa, the marsh-ringed island once housed the Crow's Nest restaurant, accessible only by riverboat.

Shielded by a rocky seawall, the island is rigged with a desalination system and septic tank, and linked to electricity by underwater power lines.

Auctioneers are piloting a pontoon boat to the island for a tour next week, and one Panama City bidder sought to visit via seaplane, firm president Lamar Fisher said.

But just who auction leaders expect to buy the island remains a mystery. To qualify for the online auction, scheduled for July 22-25, bidders must place $25,000 in escrow and be ready to wire another 10 percent on the day of closing.

"That's the beauty of the auction. We'll have all types: developers, investors, restaurateurs, home builders," Fisher said. "That's what we thrive on, breeding that competition."

Owned by the Lecanto-based Sunset Island Corp., the island holding includes what the Citrus County Property Appraiser says is 57 acres of submerged marsh and 11 acres of "wasteland." Tax rolls show it was assessed last year at $575,000.

Far from a tropical paradise, its low starting bid makes Crow's Nest the cheapest of 25 private islands now up for sale around Florida, listings from Private Islands Online show.

The closest private island to Tampa Bay now up for sale is Sunset Key, 5 undeveloped acres of beach and mangroves two football fields west of Tarpon Springs. Built by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredgers, the island is now up for sale for $595,000.

Homosassa's ink splatter of coastal islands once attracted legions of fishermen and cedar mills.

In the early 1900s, some teachers along the Nature Coast picked up students for class by snaking among the islands aboard "school boats."

These days, Homosassa is chiefly known for its springs, considered some of the best waterfront sites to spot drifting manatees.

Bears, bobcats and alligators still roam its state park, though not all animals there are so wild. A nearby resort lures in tourists with Monkey Island, inhabited by a small family of spider monkeys, including Ralph, Sassy and Eve.

Crow's Nest is one of three private islands near Homosassa now up for grabs.

Hangover Island, 40 acres of virgin sand surrounding an Indian mound, is selling for $300,000. The owner, an auction listing said, would "also consider a trade for a mountain property in the Eastern U.S."

Also nearby is the $7.9 million La Casa de Las Fuentes, Spanish for "House of the Fountains," a 46-acre island with an expansive Spanish-style villa.

Boasting two garages, an elevator and solar-powered floor heaters, the mansion was once owned by Janet Healy, a producer of Jurassic Park, Despicable Me and Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

Crow's Nest Island, of course, is not so lavish, said Mike Johns, the island's caretaker. Except for the movements of tarpon, ospreys and manatees, some of which are regular visitors to a nearby cove, the island is ruled by an abundant calm.

"That's all you look at out there, is the Gulf of Mexico," Johns said. "You can sit on the front deck and watch the world go by."

Times staff writer Craig Pittman contributed to this report. Contact Drew Harwell at (727) 893-8252 or dharwell@tampabay.com.

Private island off Homosassa for sale; bids start at $90,000 06/28/13 [Last modified: Friday, June 28, 2013 10:14pm]
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