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BUSHNELL, FL-Rural Sumter County, 95 miles northwest of Downtown Orlando, is beginning to attract multifamily developers to an area where land prices remain relatively reasonable but rigid state development restrictions are still on the books.

That’s why county officials sent the proposals by Rock Properties and Cope Properties to the Florida Department of Community Affairs which has the authority to approve a change in the county’s comprehensive land-use plan before a total 1,034 apartment units can get off the drawing boards, county staffers tell GlobeSt.com.

The state’s decision, however, is not expected until first quarter 2004. If approved, the county would still have to vote on rezoning a total 100 acres from agriculture to multifamily use. That would allow 16 dwelling units per acre instead of the six units per acre now permitted.

Cope Properties plans 740 apartments on an 80-acre site next to Rock Properties’ 20-acre tract on County Road 101, north of Wildwood. Rock Properties, headed by Gregg Zuckerman, plans 294 garden-style units, a clubhouse, swimming pool and other related amenities, according to preliminary plans filed with the county.

Density is a major factor in developing projects in rural areas, even if the land price is right, area brokers tell GlobeSt.com. For example, on the acreage planned by Rock and Cope Properties, only one single home is allowed on a five-acre tract, the typical size in a rural setting such as Sumter County.

“For a developer, that single home would have to be valued at close to a million if he is going to have any operating profit on the deal,” an Orlando developer who may be building in Sumter County at a later date tells GlobeSt.com. “Most of the time, however, building one home on five-acre pads turns out to be non-practical for the developer unless the project is huge and he has deep pockets to hang on until the entire project is completed.”

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