Water park, hotels coming to Murdock Village

October 25th, 2017

By Gary Roberts - Staff Writer - Charlotte Sun

Email: groberts@sun-herald.com

MURDOCK — The Charlotte County Commission on Tuesday agreed to sell a large portion of Murdock Village to make way for a massive $132 million sports and entertainment district. The developer, Lost Lagoon, is paying $6.7 million for 157 acres of county owned land east of Toledo Blade Boulevard, between U.S. 41 and State Road 776.

Lost Lagoon plans to build a huge water park; two hotels with conference centers, each featuring 250 rooms; five other hotels, 150 keys each; a town center retail area; outdoor amphitheater and other amenities.

“I can’t tell you how many people have come up and told me they’re ready to buy a ticket to go ride the water slides right now and to ride on the lazy river,” said Lucienne Pears, county economic development director. “And so am I.”

But the phased project will take time to complete, with the final land-sale closing scheduled six years away. If the developer fails to purchase all the property during the different stages of construction, the full $250,000 deposit would be forfeited to the county.

As part of the contract, the county also agreed to pay the developer $6 million for making “public improvements” to Toledo Blade Boulevard. This construction would include widening the highway to four lanes, from U.S. 41 to State Road 776, plus installing street lighting, landscaping, and water and sewer lines.

The expansion of Toledo Blade Boulevard already is listed as a Tier II sales tax project because road improvements are deemed necessary to develop Murdock Village. Tier II projects will only be undertaken if there is 1 percent sales tax revenue left over after all 20 top-priority projects are completed.

Pears explained, though, that the county does not want to spend more taxpayer money toward Murdock Village, if there is an alternative. The county adopted a similar strategy when it previously sold the western portion of Murdock Village to Private Equity Group for a mixed-use development calling for 2,400 units, 200,000 square feet of commercial and retail space, and a 150-key hotel.

In that deal, PEG bought 452 acres for $11.6 million, but the county would reimburse the developer the same amount for expanding O’Donnell Boulevard, plus providing sewer and water, and other enhancements. PEG would then convey this 75-acre corridor back to the county, which would own and operate the roadway and utilities.

As a Tier II sales tax project, it was estimated that the widening of Toledo Blade Boulevard would cost the county $2.6 million. However, the actual cost could exceed $8 million, Pears said, only for road construction. By having the developer upgrade the road as well as provide other improvements, the cost would be limited to $6 million and guaranteed to be completed within a faster timeline, she said.

“That’s going to save taxpayers money,” Commissioner Stephen R. Deutsch said.

Commissioner Chris Constance also hailed the expansion of Toledo Blade Boulevard as major achievement for the county.

“This is a very aggressive project, something that is going to spark development,” he said. “It’s so important that the infrastructure is correct, that the roadways that surround this project are big and that traffic moves appropriately. [The developers] don’t want people waiting in line.”

Commissioner Joe Tiseo pointed out that sales tax revenue previously committed to Toledo Blade Boulevard could now be used for other needed projects.

Speaking in support of Lost Lagoon was Julie Mathis, executive director of the Charlotte County Chamber of Commerce, representing 1,100 member businesses. She said the water park would help attract homeowners and business owners to the area and “will be an economic driver for Murdock Village and entire community.”

Bill Dryburgh, of Florida Realtors, also threw his support behind the water park, saying it would draw visitors, benefiting local restaurants and other businesses. “We favor this project of Lost Lagoon as a quality-of-life project,” he said.

With the transaction now approved, the 1,200-acre Murdock Village has only 168 acres still for sale, an area tentatively targeted for a business and technology park. The rest of Murdock Village is occupied by North Charlotte Regional Park, Florida Power & Light property, churches and a future school site.