Friday, September 21, 2007

Mike Lafferty Scrambles To Sell Oxbow Property

$1.6 Million Balloon Mortgage Payment Due November 20

LABELLE, FL. -- Michael J. Lafferty, of Naples and Phoenix is pulling out all the stops to sell his problem laden Port LaBelle former Oxbow Golf Course property.  Lafferty who just a few weeks ago turned over the Port LaBelle Inn, the 51 unit motel property with adjacent acreage, back to Richard Seibel after a balloon mortgage came due, and Lafferty was unwilling to pay it off as agreed.

Lafferty gave Seibel a "deed in lieu of foreclosure" after attempts to sell the hotel didn't work out.  Lafferty had numerous problems keeping the hotel and leased restaurant in line with state health and safety codes,  which have since been remedied, with the exception of an elevator permit which had expired sometime ago. Lafferty also had problems getting customers to rent rooms since the out of the way motel had little to attract customers with the former golf course now sporting hundreds of acres of weeds.

Lafferty is the owner of MJL Main Properties LLC, in which the land is titled.  He gave a $1.6 million mortgage in November 2005 to a partnership of trusts belonging to Danny and Deborah Perkins and John and Elizabeth Gee, all of LaBelle. The mortgage note covers 31 acres between State Road 80 and the Port LaBelle Inn, formerly golf course land. Perkins bought the land at auction after the golf course was split up and then sold to Lafferty taking back the mortgage.

Lafferty has hired Arizona auction company Holmes Larsen Auction Marketing in cooperation with Auction Services International, Inc., to try to sell the land, along with another 31 acre adjoining parcel by sealed bid due November 1. Advertising online by Larsen claims "prime land...mixed use...flexible zoning" for the land, which is actually not true according to LaBelle area real estate experts.  The land is currently designated on the Hendry County Comprehensive Plan as a "Regional Park,"  available for multi-county recreational use. The current zoning is for recreational/leisure use only. The land is about 50 yards south of the Hendry-Glades county line and contains portions of a small lake.

Controversy Over Land Use - County Planning Director's Woes

There has been community controversy over the use of the land since it's split-up from a championship 27-hole golf course to its current use as cow pastures and three-home sales model center. Some say the county has erred in permitting home builder Countty Home and Land to build three model homes on the "leisure, recreation" zoned land.  Recent soil surveys found higher than permissible levels of arsenic in the ground, attributed to weed killers used on the golf course for decades. Accordingly, any future residential use of the land, if it ever attains that zoning, would mean expensive methods may be required to get rid of the arsenic hazard in the soil.

Community residents also point out that the Hendry Commission made a resolution regarding the Port LaBelle development in 1974 that required the developer to provide a golf course as part of the 32,000 Port LaBelle development just beginning at the time. Restrictions on the use of the land were required in deeds, providing for the continuous use of this land as a golf course and  open space for the benefit of area residents and visitors. 

Hendry County Commissioners will be voting Tuesday September 25 at 5 p.m. on a proposed change to the Hendry Comprehensive Land Plan to likely permit high density condos, housing, and offices in this location. Vince Cautero, Hendry's recently hired planning chief, has apparently spear-headed the change, of which the plans were partly paid for by the out-of-area owners of the land, including Lafferty.  Cautero has been criticized by some, including Collier County Commissioner Frank Halas as the "darling of the developers," bending or ignoring rules to allow developers to get their wishes. Cautero recently resigned from his Collier county "development czar" job after allegedly not collecting $2.4 million in required impact fees from golf course developers, while his department employees were enjoying free rounds of golf at developer's golf courses.

With 750 petitioner's signatures in hand, large influential community group "Save Oxbow For Recreation" is armed to appear at the county commission chambers Tuesday night to express their wishes against any change to the county's comprehensive master plan for this property.

More Information Relating To This Story:

Larsen Auction - Ad For Port LaBelle Land

Vince Cautero Fails To Collect Millions In Developer Impact Fees?

Lafferty's Port LaBelle Land - Balloon Mortgage

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