Sunday, February 18, 2018
News Roundup

$3.5 million check brings to a close Brooksville's fight with Southern Hills developer

BROOKSVILLE — The presentation of a $3.5 million check to Brooksville City Council members Monday night by the city's attorney, Tom Hogan, signaled the end of a drawn-out legal battle with the bankrupt developer of Southern Hills Plantation Club, which abandoned the project with millions of dollars worth of unfinished infrastructure.

The settlement brings to a close an arduous legal saga involving Crescent Resources, the parent company of LandMar Group LLC, which developed the upscale community on the city's south side. In a 2011 federal court filing, the city claimed Crescent owed it about $6 million, which had been targeted for the expansion and improvement of utilities and other services as the community grew.

City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha said she was surprised to hear late last week from Hogan, who called to tell her the check was on the way, thanks to a deal ironed out in a federal court in Austin, Texas, with the trustee group made up of Crescent's creditors.

"Usually, you expect pennies on the dollar in a bankruptcy settlement," Norman-Vacha said. "We got nearly 60 percent of what was owed. It's a little bit amazing."

Once owned by Duke Energy, Crescent Resources was one of the Southeast's most prominent developers, with developments from Arizona to Florida, when it filed to reorganize as the recession hit and the housing bubble burst. Through LandMar, the company built just 79 houses in the 999-lot Southern Hills community before the property was sold to another developer.

City Council member Lara Bradburn said now that home construction is picking up, the city needs to be ready to handle the demands in Southern Hills and elsewhere in the city.

"We've stuck by what we thought was right for the property owners at Southern Hills," Bradburn said. "It wasn't easy, but we refused to give in."

In addition to filing its lawsuit against Crescent, the city also went after performance bond companies that refused to cover Crescent Resources' liabilities in completing utilities, roads, sidewalks and other infrastructure. Settlements with Travelers Casualty and Surety Co. of America and Chubb Group Insurance Cos. a $3.5 million combined settlement, with about $93,000 going to the Hogan Law Firm, which agreed to argue the case on a contingency basis.

An attempt to collect $5.3 million in performance bonds issued by Westchester Fire Insurance Co. for unfinished work at the adjacent Cascades subdivision was abandoned last year after the city lost its case in federal appeals court.

Logan Neill can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1435.

Comments
Bubba Wallace emotional after Daytona 500 runner-up finish

Bubba Wallace emotional after Daytona 500 runner-up finish

DAYTONA BEACH – No, Bubba Wallace did not win the 60th running of the Daytona 500.But you wouldn't have known that after seeing his emotions after he placed second – the highest finish ever by a black driver in the Great American Race.Wal...
Updated: 1 hour ago
After Irma evacuation gridlock, new energy for Interstate 75 options

After Irma evacuation gridlock, new energy for Interstate 75 options

OCALA — In mid-2016, a regional task force that spent almost two years exploring ways to improve safety on a crowded Interstate 75 decided to take a conservative approach: make changes to the highway rather than build or expand other roads. Then Hurr...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Austin Dillon wins Daytona 500 after Aric Almirola wrecks late

Austin Dillon wins Daytona 500 after Aric Almirola wrecks late

DAYTONA BEACH – As Austin Dillon celebrated his Daytona 500 win Sunday, he couldn't help but remember the time he was standing there, in Victory Lane, 20 years ago this week.He was 7 then, and his index finger jutted into the air triumphantly t...
Updated: 2 hours ago
‘We had this monster living under our roof and we didn’t know.’

‘We had this monster living under our roof and we didn’t know.’

Nikolas Cruz was immature, quirky and depressed when James and Kimberly Snead took him into their Parkland home. But he was pleasant and seemed to be growing happier, they said.How the 19-year-old turned into a man now arrested and charged with 17 co...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Open-mic night at Pilars is a hot spot for Disney talent

WINTER GARDEN — At the end of the day, when the tourists are gone, Disney performers head out to their favorite spot to keep on singing after their shifts are over. Every Thursday, they perform at open-mic night at Pilars, a Winter Garden martini bar...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Broward program will give small-time offenders a big break

Broward program will give small-time offenders a big break

FORT LAUDERDALE — Pot smokers aren’t the only law breakers able to get a second chance in South Florida. Underage adults buying alcohol, those stealing property worth less than $300 and people nabbed for trespassing, loitering or disorderly conduct a...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Facebook turns to postcards to snuff foreign ads

MENLO PARK, Calif. — Facebook will soon rely on centuries-old technology to try to prevent foreign meddling in U.S. elections: the post office. Baffled in 2016 by Russian agents who bought ads to try to sway the U.S. presidential campaign, Facebook’s...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Parkland students to march on Florida Capitol to demand changes to gun laws

Parkland students to march on Florida Capitol to demand changes to gun laws

TALLAHASSEEAhundred students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland will travel to Tallahassee for a march on the state Capitol on Wednesday in the first organized protest of their #NeverAgain movement.Their demand: that Florida legisl...
Updated: 3 hours ago
EPA chief Pruitt cancels visit to Israel

EPA chief Pruitt cancels visit to Israel

WASHINGTON — Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has canceled a nearly weeklong trip to Israel, agency officials confirmed Sunday.Pruitt, who had been scheduled to leave this past weekend for an extensive tour of the Mideast al...
Updated: 3 hours ago
As victims are mourned in Florida, a search for solace, and action

As victims are mourned in Florida, a search for solace, and action

PARKLAND — On the Sunday after Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School lost 17 of its own, a minister in Parkland implored his flock not to let the horrific shootings lead them away from their faith."Our world is broken, but Jesus is not," the Rev. Eddi...
Updated: 3 hours ago