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Fort Bully: Buddy Johnson and his 20 acres

Fort Bully: The story of 20 acres

March 2007: Using the historic name Fort Bully East, Hillsborough Elections Supervisor Buddy Johnson buys 20 acres off Thonotosassa Road in Plant City for $800,000. In the no-money-down deal, he borrows $520,000 from Cecil and Nita Bass, the sellers, and $400,000 from Sunshine State Savings, whose president, Floyd Hall, is Johnson's re-election campaign treasurer.

July 2007: Johnson obtains a survey of the property, subdivides it into six lots, renames it Oak Creek Estates and files a plat of the new subdivision with the county commission.

August 2007: Johnson tells the St. Petersburg Times he has no intention of developing the land. He says he intends to make his homestead in a 77-year-old, 884-square-foot home on the property, with hopes that his three children might build homes on adjoining lots.

March 2008: Johnson uses a $20-a-year lease of the property to a local cow exhibitor to seek a "greenbelt" tax exemption. "I love supporting agriculture in our community," Johnson says. "That's what I intend to do with my land."

April 2008: A Times story raises questions about conflicts of interest involving Johnson's relationship with Hall, his banker and campaign treasurer. Hall later resigns his campaign post.

June 2008: Property Appraiser Rob Turner says Johnson's $20-a-year lease, allowing a dozen cows to graze on the land, qualifies for a greenbelt exemption. That reduces the taxable value by more than $560,000 and slices almost $11,500 from Johnson's 2008 tax bill.

October 2008: Johnson puts 7 acres of his greenbelted land on the market for $470,000, promising an upscale development of "exclusive residences" in the "deed restricted" Oak Creek Estates subdivision.

December 2008: In a "pre-foreclosure special," Johnson lists for sale about 3 acres of the land, including the two-bedroom, one-bath would-be homestead, for $179,900. The real estate listing notes that zoning "allows for mobile homes as well as horses."

Friday: The Basses, who sold the property to Johnson and financed much of the purchase, sue Johnson, Sunshine State Savings and Johnson's title company in circuit court. They allege they were defrauded through a conspiracy, and that Johnson unlawfully profited from the transaction.

Fort Bully: Buddy Johnson and his 20 acres 01/30/09 [Last modified: Friday, January 30, 2009 11:57pm]
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