Communities Gain on McCall Ranch Preservation


SARASOTA, FLORIDA, September 29th, 2014 – It isn’t only Orange Hammock Ranch LLC which won in the recent auction of the 5,774-acre McCall Ranch in North Port, Sarasota Bay Real Estate reports. The communities around this property, touted as the last of its kind in South Florida, also emerged as immediate winners. Prospects now look brighter that a part of McCall Ranch or its entire area of lush natural environment teeming with wildlife can be preserved.

Orange Hammock’s winning bid was $13.9 million, or $2,190 per acre. Plans are afoot at Orange Hammock to sell McCall Ranch, a purchase opportunity that conservation advocates are hoping to avail of in partnership with local government entities.

City and county interest

The Osprey-based Conservation Foundation is one of the private conservations groups keen on the acquisition of the ranch which abounds with wetlands and other endangered natural habitats. From the government sector, Sarasota County, the city of North Port, and the Southwest Florida Water Management District have also expressed interest in acquiring the property. Primarily due to time, budget and legal constraints, these institutions were unable to participate in the bidding on the property this February.

The ranch was earlier listed for sale, carrying a $35-million tag price or $6,238 per acre. There were no takers at this price, however. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Orlando subsequently ordered an auction after its owner, South Florida Sod Inc., declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company obtained ownership of the ranch when a loan it extended to the former owner, developer Brian Tuttle, went on default.

Growth in annexation

North Port

Tuttle bought the property in 2005 for $61.5 million, intending to develop it into the Isles of Athena with 15,000 homes plus 4.2 million square feet of commercial space. Because of this project, the city of North Port annexed the property in 2006.

However, the proposed development was overtaken by the last real estate market downturn. Had the timing been more opportune, Tuttle’s project would have provided a growth stimulus for North Port, similar to its annexation of the 7,800-acre Thomas Ranch. Two communities—IslandWalk and Gran Paradiso—on the flanks of U.S. 41 have been successfully developed in this locality.

Potent natural resource

But for now, the city as well as the county and the Southwest Florida Management District views McCall Ranch as a potential community water source and a flood buffer. Local officials also share conservationists’ stand that the ranch is a high-quality wildlife habitat and a promising ecotourism destination.

There are several communities near McCall Ranch which can draw immediate benefits should a partnership among conservation groups and government functionalities pan out and preservation of the property subsequently ensue.  One is the Bobcat Trail Golf & Country Club, a 480-acre development a short distance southwest of the ranch.

The scenic natural environment of its locality is one the major attractions of this neighborhood composed of villas and single family homes. Together with the RV Griffin Reserve, the McCall Ranch serves as a green buffer northeast for these residences.