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City of Venice mulls $1.6M offer to settle Neal permit fee dispute


The Neal Communities headquarters at 5800 Lakewood Ranch Blvd., Sarasota.
The Neal Communities headquarters at 5800 Lakewood Ranch Blvd., Sarasota.
Photo by Bobrien12
  • Manatee-Sarasota
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Years after mediation talks began, developer Neal Communities of SWFL and Neal Signature Homes LLC proposed a settlement with the city of Venice over its builder fees.

The prolific homebuilder, based in Lakewood Ranch, has offered to resolve the dispute for $1.6 million, including a stipulation that it not have to pay builder fees going forward.

The attorney listed for Neal, S. William Moore, declined to comment, saying by phone there was "no settlement until it's approved."

The dispute between the city of Venice and Neal has been ongoing for the past few years.

Neal filed suit against the city of Venice on Aug. 26, 2022, after the city and the company first attempted mediation in June 2022, according to a letter from Derek A. Schroth, special counsel to the city of Venice in the case.

After two sides could still not reach an agreement in another mediation session in March 2023, the court ordered a trial to begin June 11, Schroth says.

Instead, Neal offered on June 10 to resolve all claims for $1.6 million, according to Schroth, who addresses his June 18 letter to the Venice City Council, which must vote on the settlement at its June 25 meeting.

There is $4.4 million in the city’s building fund currently, Schroth says, after the city of Venice paid more than $4.3 million in building fee refunds in fiscal year 2023.

Contributing to the building fee refunds in 2023 was a change by the state legislature that capped the amount of building fees governments could carry over from one fiscal year to the next, according to city of Venice spokesperson Lorraine Anderson, who said the city used the excess funds to issue refunds and reduce future building fees.

“This settlement will be paid from the building fund and have no fiscal impact on the city’s general fund,” Schroth says in a statement about the proposed $1.6 million agreement.

The Venice City Council will meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday, June 25, and approval of the settlement is on the agenda. According to the settlement agreement, the offer to compromise runs through the close of business June 25 and thereafter becomes void if the council does not approve it.

Neal Communities has 311 employees and posted $905 million in revenue in 2023, up 47.6% from $613 million in 2022. The company has built 23,000 homes since Pat Neal and his father founded it in 1970.

 

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Elizabeth King

Elizabeth is a business news reporter with the Business Observer, covering primarily Sarasota-Bradenton, in addition to other parts of the region. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University, she previously covered hyperlocal news in Maryland for Patch for 12 years. Now she lives in Sarasota County.

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