So it seems that the Perdue camp found the Taylor “Above” ad about the Florida land sufficiently stinging enough to send out a response. Personally, I thought that the high road was working well for Perdue, and nearly everyone I’ve talked to (non-politicos) found the Perdue ads much more effective than the Taylor ads. (Quote: “It’s always Taylor and kids. Taylor and kids. They’re all the same”.)
In any case, Taylor proponents have latched on to this property deal as representative of Sonny’s ethic and appear to be prepared to ride it all the way to election day. While I’m no fan of Taylor, my interest here is mostly as a former Disney employee, former resident of Lake Buena Vista, Florida, and avid Disney vacationer.
So I decided to dig a little more into this parcel of land and see what I could find out.
From Sonny’s 2005 ethics disclosures, we see that the parcel of land is described as follows: “Section 27 Township 25, Range 27 East, of the Florida Fruit and Truck Land Company’s plat as recorded in plat book “B”, page 68 of the public records of Osceola County”. Additionally, the property has a value of $185,700.00, and a purchase price of $2,038,000.00.
Mark Taylor’s “Above” ad values the land at $40,000,000, apparently as a result of a comparative land valuation with parcel 35-25-27-4881-0001-0120. This parcel of land is a single family home, subdivided from a much larger parcel that is nearly adjacent to the Perdue land. The comparative property appears to be in a new subdivision called Reunion West Villages North, which are part of the Reunion Resort and Golf Club. The main part of the club property resides over the interstate to the south of I-4 from the Perdue and comparative properties.
Both Perdue’s land and the comparative parcel are located a few miles west of the Disney property on I-4; in fact they reside in between the World Drive exit of I-4 (Celebration, Magic Kingdom, etc.) and US-27. That indeed puts them in prime location for future development, as so much of the area’s growth is westbound along the I-4 corridor.
Now, on to the property valuation. Critics of Perdue have been very vocal about the disparity between the $2M and $185,700 figure. In order to find out what the property is worth (in the tax sense), I visited the Osceola County Property Appraiser’s site (www.property-appraiser.org). Using Sonny’s disclosure, I found two parcels that are owned by George Perdue III:
27-25-27-3160-000A-0085 – Value $16,200 (10/21/2005)
2.16 Acres submerged land (swamp), .591 Acres Zoned Commercial
27-25-27-3160-000A-0090 – Value $169,500 (10/21/2005)
10.6 Acres Submerged land, 6.44 Acres Commercial
In addition to the Osceola County Property Appraisers reports linked above, I called the Kissimmee office of the appraiser and confirmed that the information above was correct. I was additionally told that the submerged land above was possibly usable as commercial land, but it would require additional permits, surveying, and approvals to change the watershed areas to improvable commercial property.
Why the disparity between the prices? Certainly this parcel of land qualifies as a ‘good investment’ – it’s located in a growing area, next to high end homes. There are any number of commercial opportunities available to the owner. However, out of 40 acres, only about 7 is immediately usable according to the land records. Painfully, Taylor’s comparison of a single family home in a high-end golf community with the commercial property facing an interstate is deeply flawed. Further, Sonny’s purchase of the land for $2 million appears to be fair, and is consistent with the price previously paid for the property. But as we all know, the business of land valuation for tax and asset purposes is a complicated, messy business. Sonny’s claim that the property is worth under $200,000 is clearly supported by the available legal documents. Much as the land that PeachPundit HQ sits on here in lovely Alpharetta, Georgia is worth $161,900 (according to Fulton County), it’s all in the improvements and the future value.
Expect part two of this report later in the month – we have a family vacation planned to Disney in a few weeks and I’m going to visit the land personally to scope things out.