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Latest trouble at Pasco County's Bella Verde: foreclosure suit

SAN ANTONIO — On its Web site, Bella Verde promises lush living with an 18-hole golf course, homes by nine builders ranging from $200,000 to $2 million, a theater, a spa, swimming pools, tennis and volleyball courts. All opening in 2005.

"Here you will find the luxury, comfort, convenience and amenities you want — all together in one beautiful place," it says.

Four years later, the only evidence of the development has been a sign poked into the dirt of the area once known as Cannon Ranch.

And the only activity of late has been a foreclosure lawsuit filed by one of the three community development districts in the project.

Bella Verde Golf Community Development District Board of Supervisors said in a lawsuit filed this month that four developers — New Cities Land Co., Dad Properties, Bates Properties and Professional Land Development — have failed to pay back $10.4 million plus interest on bonds it issued to pay for infrastructure. It asks the court to sell the property to repay the debt.

The lawsuit did not specify the size of the property involved or how many homes or other amenities were planned in that portion of Bella Verde.

Community development districts, commonly known as CDDs, are created to help pay for infrastructure such as roads, drainage and parks within neighborhoods. The districts issue bonds to finance the projects and then charge homeowners through assessments to pay off the bond debts.

"They're like governments," said Russ Weyer, a senior executive at Fishkind & Associates, an Orlando-based economics firm.

With the housing market collapse, some developments haven't sold houses to generate money to pay the bonds. So that leaves the district on the hook.

Weyer said about 10 percent of the state's 500 districts are in some form of default on bonds.

"Most of them, especially the established ones," are doing fine, he said.

Other districts that defaulted on bonds include Heritage Isles in New Tampa and Riverwood Estates near Zephyrhills.

The Bella Verde lawsuit also listed two banks and nine other contractors, engineering firms or other companies with interests in the property.

Weyer said that's to ensure "the CDD is first in line" as a creditor.

Bella Verde land use attorney Keith Bricklemyer did not return calls for comment. Representatives for New Cities, the main developer, would not discuss the lawsuit.

A manager for the district also did not return messages.

Scott Clark, an attorney for the district, said it was a standard foreclosure case.

It has been a tough several years for Bella Verde. In August 2008, New Cities got Pasco County to extend its build-out date from 2010 to 2017. As part of the deal, developers agreed to decrease the number of homes planned from 6,700 to 4,373.

The development had also agreed to pay $78 million toward road improvements, including a share of an interchange cloverleaf-loop ramp at Interstate 75 that state planners are requiring.

"We're like the guy who finished fourth in the marathon," Bricklemyer told county commissioners last year.

"We're staggering over the line, but we made it."

Lisa Buie can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 909-4604.

Latest trouble at Pasco County's Bella Verde: foreclosure suit 08/17/09 [Last modified: Monday, August 17, 2009 9:02pm]
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