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ORLANDO-Robert Miller never takes no for an answer. He always returns with another idea. Now Osceola County, the poor cousin of Orange County where Orlando is located, is considering new funding strategy proposed by the developer for his $1.1 billion World Expo mixed-use project comprising one million sf of commercial/retail/restaurant, a 2,000-room Hyatt hotel and a 41,000-sf convention center.

It’s the convention center part of the project that keeps Osceola County commissioners focused on Miller and his so-far mysterious unnamed new investor group. Osceola County knows it will never be able to compete with the four-million-sf Orange County Convention Center that is adding another 1.1 million sf this year. But Osceola will be satisfied if it can at least pick up the crumbs of Orange County’s gargantuan convention business to pay the bills and still have a little left over for future development.

The convention center site is between US 192 and Osceola Parkway, eight miles from the 30,000-acre Walt Disney World empire.

Miller’s newest idea is to have Osceola dissolve its two-year-old Osceola Trace Community Development District that had envisioned paying for the project, and replace it with a different kind of taxing district–one that could legally issue bonds for various infrastructure needs. The county would repay the debt, using tourist-development tax revenue and would get its money back through assessments.

A few commissioners like the bond-floating idea because it would mean the developer would be paying property taxes like any other commercial venture. If Miller defaulted, his tax bill could be sold at public auction and the county would be paid its invoiced tax amount. The losers in a default would be the bond investors.

And that’s the big risk for growing Osceola County. In a default by Miller, it could lose its current A bond rating. The State Attorney’s office opposes any plan that permits public funds to support a private enterprise.

For example, the developer would build the convention center, then sell it to the county for $35 million or an astronomical $853.65 per sf. Miller’s company would then manage the convention center as well as the rest of the entire World Expo enclave. The company would earn management fees for 20 years.

The State Attorney’s office dismisses Miller’s funding strategies as a mumbo-jumbo of unrealistic numbers. But Miller feels the State Attorney’s office and county commissioners will give his newest plan credibility when he discloses the names of his locally-based investment entourage at a public commission hearing in late January.

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