Wednesday, June 15, 2016

David v. Goliath: 81-Year Old Widow's Refusal To Be Bulldozed From Her Modest Orlando-Area Vacation Townhome Threatens To Shut Down Billionaire-CEO's 180-Acre, $24 Million Timeshare Project; Developer's Failure To Obtain Title From Unwilling Seller Prior To Starting Project May Lead To Revocation Of Site's Building Permit

In Orlando, Florida, the Orlando Sentinel reports:
  • Julieta Corredor's vacation home is the last obstacle in the way of Westgate Resorts' plan to build multimillion-dollar timeshare towers.

    Bulldozers have plowed over everything else around home — every townhouse, the community spa, tennis courts and all the trees.

    "It's just a house in the middle of nowhere now," said William Corredor, a software executive speaking for his 81-year-old mother, who bought the home 30 years ago with her late husband and used it as a hub to visit theme parks with their children, 19 grandkids and seven great-grandchildren.

    But a Westgate executive said the company has tried for more than a decade to acquire Corredor's townhouse, offering double its value.

    "This isn't about their mother's vacation home; this is about how much money they can get us to pay," Chief Operating Officer Mark Waltrip said. "We're building around them."

    Corredor's son appealed to Orange County commissioners this week for help, complaining that Westgate erected a construction fence blocking access to his mom's place and questioning how the timeshare company got permission to start its $24 million project when it doesn't own the whole property.

    County officials are re-examining Westgate's permit applications.

    "That [approval] could be undone," said Jon Weiss, director of Orange County community, environmental and development services.

    Developers seeking permission from the county for projects are required to certify they own all properties included in their plan or have agreements with authorized agents, Weiss said. If Westgate misrepresented its ownership, the company could be forced to stop work on the 180-acre project.

    Waltrip said the company accurately portrayed the ownership of the properties.

    Orange County property records are clear: Westgate or its parent company, Central Florida Investments, owns every lot in the former Sonesta Villa Resort but one: a two-bedroom, two-bath townhouse titled to Corredor's mother, who lives in South Florida and had used the property as a vacation home.

    Weiss said the county wants a Westgate representative to appear next month before an advisory committee to explain the ownership discrepancy.

    Waltrip said the townhouses adjacent to Julieta Corredor's unit were moldy and rotting. He said he asked the county to condemn hers, too.

    William Corredor, 54, said money isn't the issue for his mother, who paid $154,000 for the home. He said his mother has been offered $150,000 by Westgate Resorts, whose president and CEO is billionaire David Siegel.

    Property appraiser records show nearby condos have sold for an average of $69,000 over the past six months.

    "She doesn't want to sell," Corredor said. "It's not like you can tell her what to do." Her taxes on the property are up to date, although no one in the family has stayed overnight at the home for several years.
For a follow-up story, see Widow, Westgate still at stalemate over condo.

Editor's Note: For those of you with a long memory, a similar scenario played out in an episode (Season 1, Episode 5: I Won't Go) of the 1960's New York City-based police situation comedy, Car 54, Where Are You?

That episode hilariously depicted city officials and the fits they were having when discovering that there was one remaining resident in an entire 15-square block neighborhood condemned and undergoing demolition (in connection with the construction of the approach to the George Washington Bridge off of the Cross Bronx Expressway, a part of master builder Robert Moses' infamous urban renewal project that displaced thousands of residents in the Bronx throughout the 1950s & 1960s).

That resident, a sweet (but shrewd), elderly widow named Mrs. Bronson (played by famed star of Yiddish theater and film, Molly Picon) not only avoided eviction but, because of her knowledge of "the system," was proving to be a bit more difficult than they expected to boot from her (presumably rent-controlled) apartment, thereby threatening to indefinitely hold up the entire construction project.

Surprisingly, it was Toody & Muldoon who stumbled into a solution to gently persuade Mrs. Bronson to leave her home of 40 years and allow the Bronx urban renewal project to continue.

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