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CLERMONT, FL-National big-box retailers have discovered south Lake County, 25 miles west of Downtown Orlando, but entering the development turf there isn’t easy, they are finding out.

In its second attempt in 12 months, Atlanta-based Home Depot Inc. is asking Clermont’s planning and zoning commission today for permission to build an estimated $11 million, 130,000-sf retail store and garden center at a new location.

Home Depot’s entry in the south Lake County market will directly challenge an existing Scotty’s home improvement center. The Winter Haven, FL-based chain, once the dominant hardware hub in Central Florida, has fallen behind in sales volume to relatively new players in the state such as Home Depot, Lowes and Ace Hardware.

The new Home Depot site is on the west side of the Kash n’ Karry shopping center where connector roads are in place. Home Depot’s first site selection was west of Oakley Seaver Drive. That location is near a former Wal-Mart Stores Inc. planned store at the southeast corner of U.S. 27 and State Road 50, the busiest intersection in south Lake County.

Wal-Mart sold its 32-acre site to Atlanta-based Candler Development Corp. for an estimated $2.5 million or $78,125 per acre ($1.80 per sf) after Clermont previously rejected its 125,000-sf, $10 million store proposal.

Candler, headed by Dick Candler, plans to construct up to seven restaurants and at least a 100-room hotel on the site in two 14-acre stages.

Home Depot needed to buy right-of-way land from Wal-Mart to build connector roads off Hook Street to its original store site. But Wal-Mart refused to give Home Depot the right-of-way land, Clermont city officials have confirmed. That killed the initial project for Home Depot.

Now Home Depot is hoping the planning and zoning group will OK its newest dirt selection. To win the green light, Don Casto Organization, the Orlando developer hoping to build the store for Home Depot, will have to convince the planners to bend the rules on the 100,000-sf cap the city now has on big-box ventures. Home Depot’s original plans were for a 145,320-sf store.

Area brokers and land planners tell GlobeSt.com the odds are in Home Depot’s favor since Clermont set a precedent in February when the city allowed Target Stores of Minneapolis to build a 187,000-sf, $15 million SuperTarget near Wal-Mart’s old location. Negotiating for Target at the time was Suzanne Pinel Hayes, head of CB Richard Ellis Inc.’s retail team in Orlando.

Daryl Carter, president, Maury L. Carter & Associates Inc., Orlando, and his father, longtime area land broker Maury Carter who chairs his company, also convinced Clermont elected officials their planned 203,000-sf retail center on 40 acres at Hancock Road and State Road 50 would benefit, not harm the community’s quality of life. The Carters own Solo Development Corp. which is developing the center which Target will anchor.

But Home Depot doesn’t have the Carters or CBRE’s Hayes at its elbow this time around, area brokers point out. Still, Home Depot has other credits on its side, such as the $8 million, 129,000-sf, 30-acre merchandise transfer distribution center Trammell Crow Co. is developing for the retailer near the Target location.

Besides overcoming the 100,000-sf ordinance cap, Casto is also asking for fewer parking spaces than the city’s regulations call for and a change in the sign ordinance.

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