Developer Bob Reese on Thursday tried to reassure Maitland officials that a $7.5 million foreclosure action would not jeopardize his partnership with the city.
Reese is two years into a five-year deal with the city to build a pedestrian-friendly downtown, with a new fire station and city hall, on a combination of city-owned and private property along U.S. Highway 17-92 between Packwood and George avenues.
Last week, Mercantile Bank filed suit against sued Reese and his Brossier Co., saying he defaulted on the mortgage on a former Winn-Dixie lot that's a key piece of the plan. The suit states that Reese failed to make the May 3 mortgage payment and pay property taxes for 2007 and 2008. Maitland is listed as a defendant because the property is part of the city's development contract with Brossier Co.
Reese characterized the suit as "a friendly thing" and "part of our process" during a meeting of the city's Community Redevelopment Agency Advisory Board.
"All I can tell you is it's part of our ongoing negotiations to reverse our debt," he said.
City planners and advisory-board members were not as confident, however, suggesting that the foreclosure action had further hurt Reese's credibility as the city's development partner.
"I'm very uncomfortable with the current financial stability of Brossier right now, and while it [the suit] may be a simple thing, I'm not so sure of that," said advisory-board member Bob Yohe.
The City Council agreed to let Reese build a new fire station at the existing Packwood site with $2.4 million from bond proceeds until he could finance his larger vision. But disagreements and legal complications surrounding the temporary relocation of the Fire Department have led city planners and some council members to favor putting the fire-station construction out to public bid.
Reese declined to be interviewed, and John Brennan, the attorney for Mercantile Bank, could not be reached Thursday. The City Council has said it will make a decision about the fire station Oct. 12.
Daphne Sashin can be reached at 407-650-6361 or firstname.lastname@example.org.