An estimated $5 million land deal and a $15.5 million planned project 25 miles from downtown Orlando aren’t dead, only sidelined, insiders to the transaction tell Meanwhile, Watkins Motor Lines’ planned Sept. 1 ground-breaking on a 150-bay terminal that would have brought 150 new jobs to Lake County is on hold.

Lake County commissioners, listening to their constituents, are standing by their 5-0 unanimous vote to deny the 68-year-old Lakeland-based firm a rezoning request in a dense residential area. “We have all been told by the lawyers not to say anything at this time, but we can tell you Watkins is evaluating all of the options open to them,” Daryl M. Carter, president of Orlando-based Maury L. Carter & Associates, told

Carter sold the 90 acres to Watkins in May. The price equates to about $55,555 per acre, or an estimated $1.28 psf. The State Road 50 and Lake Boulevard site borders the Lake-Orange County line. The deal hinges on Watkins winning a rezoning request to build an 87,772-sf distribution hub building and terminal for its 18-wheel vehicles.

What puzzles industry watchers is that the county was offering Watkins a $200,000 incentive package to do the deal in May.

The county’s action marks the second time in six months that a prospective employer’s plans went south. Orlando-based Regal Marine Industries pulled out of a transaction in April that would have brought 80 new jobs to Leesburg, about 40 miles from Orlando. Residents’ opposition to the boat firm’s rezoning request shot down the deal.

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