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West Meadows could be sold off

The subdivision's owner, Atlantic Gulf Communities, could sell the planned 1,400-home development to put its financial house in order.

The development company building West Meadows is willing to sell just about anything it owns to get out of debt, including the rights to the planned, 1,400-home New Tampa subdivision.

In an interview Friday, the new chief executive of Atlantic Gulf Communities Corp. said the Miami-based company has no immediate plan to sell West Meadows, but would do so if it received a good offer.

"Basically, everything we have is for sale for the right price," said chief executive Richard Ackerman. "We are trying to pay down debt and get our financial house in order."

Atlantic Gulf Communities has seen its stock price fall 87 percent over the last year. It was trading last week at 13 cents a share.

West Meadows is Atlantic Gulf's lone Tampa presence. The planned community is slated to have nearly 1,400 homes. It boasts a recreation center, fishing ponds and extensive conservation areas.

But so far, only about 300 homes have been built, and talk of a sale has left West Meadows residents jittery about the future.

Jon Hansen, former president of Citizens for West Meadows, said the bonds sold to build West Meadows are contingent on a community of about 1,400 homes. Hansen wondered whether existing residents would face higher taxes if the subdivision isn't completed.

Hansen also worried about how new ownership would affect the quality of homes that are built.

"I would be very concerned in regards to who the purchaser is, and what type of home builders would come in," Hansen said.

Atlantic Gulf Communities has been in financial trouble for some time. Ackerman, who came to the company from Crocker Realty Trust said he was looking at a variety of ways to restructure the company's operations and lessen its debt.

Atlantic Gulf has had a shaky relationship with many West Meadows homeowners, who have criticized the company for not openly opposing a controversial east-west connector road.

_ David Pedreira can be reached at (813) 226-3463 or pedreirasptimes.com.

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