Pines creates district for housing

COURTESY of The Sun Sentinel
By Joe Kollin
Published May 7, 2007

PEMBROKE PINES For the third time, city officials have created a mini-government for a residential developer, a move that lets the firm pay less for the money it needs to finance construction of roads and water and sewer systems.

Spending less means the developer can sell houses for less, in this case about $10,000 off the price of each of the 208 townhouses.

Although the Pembroke Harbor Community Development District is being created by the city, it won't cost taxpayers anything, according to City Manager Charles F. Dodge and City Attorney Sam Goren. The state allows cities to create districts for private interests.

Developer Carr Residential LLC, of Coral Gables, requested creation of a community development district for Pembroke Harbor, planned for the east side of Interstate 75 between Pines Boulevard and Pembroke Road.

The community will be adjacent to the high-end, 40-acre Shops at Pembroke Gardens, which is under construction, and the planned 17-acre Pembroke Pointe office complex. Work on the two four-story office buildings should start soon.

By creating the district, Carr can borrow money using tax-exempt bonds. Without federal taxes, the firm can sell each townhouse for about $10,000 less than if financed normally, attorney Dennis Mele told city commissioners.

To city commissioners, providing affordable housing is important.

Knowing of the concern, James Carr, owner of the development firm, in a surprise move on April 18 donated $250,000 to the city's new affordable housing fund.

"It is a magnanimous effort by Mr. Carr," said Mayor Frank Ortis.

"I would hope other developers in the city will step up to the plate," said Commissioner Iris Siple.

The unsolicited donation will go into the trust fund even though commissioners haven't yet determined what to do with it. The fund total will come to about $1.3 million.

Also being considered is a mandatory fee on all construction with the money going into the fund. Decisions should be made by the end of the year.

The two other community development districts in the city are Meadow Pines, which includes the Cobblestone community, and Walnut Creek.

The city in 2003 created the Meadow Pines Community Development District for the 850-home Cobblestone development on the west side of I-75 between Pines Boulevard and Pembroke Road. The developer, Westbrooke Cos. Inc. of Miami, borrowed $17.4 million and was to charge each Cobblestone homeowner $700 a year for 30 years to repay it. James Carr also is an official of Westbrooke.

The commission in 2000 created the Walnut Creek Community Development District for Lennar Homes' 1,112-unit subdivision east of University Drive between Taft and Sheridan streets. Each owner pays $40 a month to the district to pay off the loan.

The preliminary estimate of costs for Pembroke Harbor is $3.5 million. Each homeowner's payment to the district, which will be for 30 years, hasn't been announced.

A five-member board of representatives of the developer governs each community development district for the first five years. Then the homeowners, generally through their homeowner associations, begin taking over the board.

The districts cease to exist when bonds are repaid, according to city attorney Goren.