MINNEOLA, FL-School board officials in Lake and Osceola County today may wish they had also taken courses in commercial real estate along with their traditional reading, writing and arithmetic programs. Two land deals in their separate jurisdictions have left them frustrated, brokers following the unusual sequence of events tells GlobeSt.com.

In Minneola, where the Lake County board urgently wants to build a new high school and middle school in the south end of the county, the board has approved a $3.5-million contract with former county commissioner Claude Smoak to buy his 110-acre tract for $32,000 per acre or 73 cents per sf.

The only problem with that deal is that the board previously also approved a nearly $3.5-million contract with Orlando lawyer John Lowndes to buy his 115-acre spread for $30,000 an acre or 69 cents per sf. Although the Lowndes land price is lower, the board has found road access problems with the tract–problems that would take about $14 million to correct, school officials confirm.

School board officials couldn’t be reached by GlobeSt.com’s publication deadline. But local real estate lawyers not associated with the land deals tell GlobeSt.com the board could be legally obligated to buy both tracts. If that happens, the board conceivably could still wind up ahead by re-selling the tract to a private developer at a profit, local land brokers say.

The Smoak-owned land on Grassy Lake Road faces the Reserve at Minneola, a $55-million, 689-unit apartment community planned by Mount Dora developer Terry Hagen. The county still hasn’t given the developer a final green light on that project.

Meanwhile, about 30 miles east of Minneola, in Osceola County, that area’s school board thought it was receiving a free 15-acre gift from the City of St. Cloud–but the price is actually about a half million dollars, they have now learned.

The land was earmarked for a neighborhood school in the Stevens Plantation subdivision, about 15 miles from Walt Disney World. Independent appraisals made for the school district place the estimated value of the 15 acres between $375, 000 to $600,000.

St. Cloud officials now want the school board to pay $450,000, or about $30,000 per acre (69 cents per sf), for the land. They say they can sell the 15 acres to a private developer for about $1 million or 66,666 per acre, according to Osceola brokers following that land play. The school board plans to review the offer again before making a final decision.

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