View Full Version : Roadwork deal for congested area of North Port could die

11-28-2007, 01:11 PM
Roadwork deal for congested area of North Port could die


NORTH PORT -- The city's quest to tap developers for improvements to clogged roadways hit a snag on Tuesday, jeopardizing a plan to widen the busy intersection of Price and Sumter boulevards.

Now, the road work may be delayed until 2013 or later.

The city of North Port and a developer, The Sembler Co., have been negotiating since February over a deal for the company to widen the intersection from two to four lanes while it builds its 400,000-square-foot shopping mall.

The deal would allow Sembler to avoid the headache of major road construction after the mall is completed, and give the city wider roads years ahead of schedule.

But the company said Tuesday it may not be able to afford the project, and made no promises to sign a contract the city will send over in December.

The shift could be more fallout from a regional real estate downturn that has hit hard in North Port, especially on Sumter Boulevard.

Sumter Boulevard, a major north-south corridor linking Interstate 75 and U.S. 41, is four lanes wide in some places and two lanes wide elsewhere.

It will remain that way until North Port can afford to finish widening it.

The current agreement calls for Sembler to use the transportation impact fees it owes the city -- an estimated $3 million to $4 million -- for widening the intersection, then send North Port a bill for the balance after the work is finished.

Sembler would essentially be loaning North Port millions of dollars that company Vice President Joseph Filippelli said it cannot borrow.

The firm is already on the hook for an estimated $40 million to build the mall, which includes a 137,000-square-foot Target store.

"We can only advance, only borrow a certain amount of money through our construction acquisition loan," Filippelli told city leaders.

Hearing that a developer might not have enough money to build a road in North Port was new for commissioners, who recently celebrated the start of work on Toledo Blade Boulevard, a $16 million project that is being completed for the city by developers.

Under that deal, Benderson Development Co., Centex Homes and Neal Communities are contributing $8 million in lieu of impact fees, with North Port repaying the rest when work is completed.

The city favors such deals because developers can usually finish road work faster and cheaper than North Port could.

That is especially true regarding the intersection of Price and Sumter, which the city does not plan to widen for at least five years.

Sembler asked the city to cut costs, possibly millions, by reducing the scope of the work and capping how much the company would have to pay nearby businesses for losses related to construction in an area that includes restaurants, a gas station, pharmacy and supermarket.

The commission said no.

"If Sembler says, 'We can't afford it,' then we're done," said Commissioner Jim Blucher.

The commission plans to sign the agreement next month, then send it to the company.

"You sign," City Attorney Rob Robinson told commissioners. "If they don't want to sign it, don't sign it. ... We are not holding it up."

Whether the company will take the deal is uncertain. Filippelli declined to comment on the company's plans, though he told commissioners: "I have to make a $40 million business decision."

"We've just got to wait and see," said Steve Boone, an attorney for Sembler.

Last modified: November 28. 2007 4:57AM