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Housing is back, but worries persist

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  • | 7:36 a.m. June 10, 2013
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A trio of prominent local real estate executives recently told a crowd of real estate agents and mortgage brokers that yes, the market is back, and in some cases, it's even booming again.

But the biggest applause at “Boom, Bubble or Bust,” an event hosted by the Homebuilders Association Manatee-Sarasota, came for the one person who was less cheery. That panelist, Schroeder-Manatee Ranch President and CEO Rex Jensen, says he sees good signs in the market, too, but he's concerned about future challenges.

The applause, however, wasn't because Jensen was simply being pragmatic. Instead, it was for Jensen's rip into the Sarasota County 2050 plan, which was ostensibly designed in 2002 to protect against urban sprawl. Sarasota County commissioners recently agreed to consider 2050 revisions — a move that can't come soon enough for Jensen and a host of others in real estate and development.

“The problem with 2050 is that it's devoid of common sense,” says Jensen, whose firm is behind Lakewood Ranch, a master-planned community with commercial and residential projects in both Sarasota and Manatee counties. “It was designed by (consultants) who have never financed a project, who have never developed a project.”

That comment brought loud cheers and applause from the crowd, who also came to hear Neal Communities President Pat Neal; Michael Saunders & Co. founder and CEO Michael Saunders; and John Tuccillo, chief economist for Florida Realtors. Saunders calls the local rise in home sales and prices a market “on steroids,” though she, like other panelists, say affordable housing, or a lack thereof, could be on the horizon.

But Jensen wasn't finished about Sarasota 2050. Again to more applause, Jensen says he will focus on building homes in Manatee County and leave the land SMR owns in Sarasota County to cattle if changes aren't made to 2050. Jensen's 2050 comments were an answer to a question asked by the moderator, Sarasota Herald-Tribune Real Estate Editor Harold Bubil.

Jensen, like many other developers who criticize 2050, says the plan's onerous rules are too confusing and inconsistent to make a project work. “I won't build the first home,” says Jensen, “if I can't build the last.”


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