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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Arvida looking for Island property

Island residents, particularly along the Gulf in Holmes Beach, could one day have an unwanted new neighbor.

The Arvida-St. Joe Co. is apparently set on finding some suitable Island property to complement its upcoming Perico Island condominium project, and once asked Tidemark managing partner Nick Easterling about buying that Holmes Beach property.

Easterling confirmed that more than a year ago Arvida representatives inquired about a potential purchase, but the discussions were informal and he said he turned them down.

"I said I didn't spend five years of my life with this project not to see it finished," Easterling said. "I told them 'no.'"

The 40-unit Tidemark hotel/condominium/marina is planned on the site of the former Pete Reynard's Restaurant just north of the Wachovia building.

But Arvida is not likely to give up its search for Island property, now that lawsuits against its controversial 686-unit condominium development on Perico Island have been dropped. The company has a history of building condominium projects with accompanying private beachfront and clubhouse. On Longboat Key, Arvida purchased beachfront property for a private clubhouse for its Harborside condominiums.

Arvida would like an Island property to tie in with its Perico development, a local real estate agent said, because it's an added feature for sales and marketing.

"What they'd probably like is a private clubhouse and beachfront for condominium owners. It would be a great selling point to have a private beach available if you buy an Arvida condominium," said the agent, who asked not to be identified. "My guess is they would look at the Kabris property in Holmes Beach."

The Kabris property at 101 75th St. is no longer owned by Kabris, but was sold Jan. 21 to William and Margaret Robinson of Bradenton for $2.369 million, according to Manatee County property records.

Efforts to reach Robinson for comment on his future plans for the property were unsuccessful, but his attorney, Ed Vogler, said Robinson has no plans to change the use of the property "at this time."

Kabris had requested a zoning change to accommodate a duplex for that portion of the property zoned Recreation-1.   The city commission turned down the request and he subsequently filed a legal action before selling to Robinson. The Rec-1 zoning allows the property to be developed as a clubhouse for a condominium or homeowner's association, including food and alcohol service.

Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore said she spoke to Robinson, who claimed he was only going to remodel the property for the time being. She said he made no comment when she asked about any future plans at that location.

"It would not surprise me if Arvida approached Robinson about buying the property," the real estate agent said.

And Ed Vogler might be the perfect attorney to negotiate with Arvida. He's no stranger to Arvida and its Perico Island project. He was formerly with the firm of Blalock Held Walters and Johnson that represented the City of Bradenton when it was sued by Manatee County for its 2000 approval of the Arvida project. Bradenton's legal fees in that action were reportedly paid by Arvida.

Robinson, however, doesn't have the only Holmes Beach property on the Gulf zoned Rec-1. Hugh Holmes Sr. owns several vacant beachfront lots just north of the Robinson property, commonly referred tp as the "Cabana Club," that are also zoned to allow a private clubhouse facility. Efforts to reach Holmes Sr. for comment were unsuccessful.

Robinson and his family are Manatee natives and were formerly in the sporting goods business. Two years ago, the Robinsons sold some 375 acres they owned in northwest Bradenton to Manatee County for a nature preserve and park rather than developing the property for single-family homes. Robinson is developing a golf course adjacent to the preserve.

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