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Developer condition threatens to shut down construction of new Poly U
Posted Jun 8, 2012 by Lindsay Peterson
Updated Jun 8, 2012 at 04:00 PM
A new wrench has flown into the process of shifting assets from USF to the new Florida Polytechnic University - and it could halt construction of the new campus.
For years, USF has been planning a new classroom building on its Interstate 4 site on land donated to USF by a private Polk land owner nearly ten years ago.
The state law creating the new university requires that USF transfer its Lakeland campus property and everything on it to the new Polytechnic once Poly has a governing structure able to take charge of the project.
What makes it complicated is that the company that donated the land, Williams Acquisition Holding Co., has to sign off on the transfer - and it has some conditions of its own.
A member of the USF Board of Trustees, real estate attorney Steve Mitchell, said in a telephone conference call this morning that Williams wants a clause inserted into the transfer agreement returning the land to Williams if the property ceases to be used “exclusively” for a public university.
The head of a state Board of Governors committee, which is overseeing the new university planning, said, in effect, “no way.”
The state is investing about $100 million in the construction of the first new university classroom/lab building. Other buildings are planned on the 530 acres, which are surrounded by a 2,000-acre Williams development.
“For us to have a reverter clause in that type of agreement is mind boggling,” said board member Mori Hosseini. “To me it is unacceptable.”
He sees the campus as state property. And what if the state wants to use part of it for office buildings or something else in the future, he asked.
“I want to make sure we are protected here,” he said, after suggesting the board consider stopping campus construction.
All of this happened in a meeting that was supposed to be short and simple. But we should know by now that nothing related to the new Poly is simple.
Creating the university, Florida’s 12th, was a priority of state Sen. JD Alexander, of Polk County.
He pushed through a bill this session that immediately established the new university, shutting down the USF Lakeland campus. And that undercut a Board of Governors’ plan to turn that campus into a separate university after it had met several conditions to prove it was ready to stand alone.
Already people are talking about the challenge of starting a new university with no faculty, no students, no buildings and no accreditation.
If this doesn’t get straightened out, the new Florida Poly won’t have any land for a campus either.
Williams, for the record, has been represented by Gray Robinson law firm, in Orlando. The Gray Robinson attorney who worked with Williams until recently, Tom Cloud, is one of about 80 people who’ve applied to be on the new Florida Polytechnic board of trustees.