The Cory Lake Isles CDD Board of Supervisors is negotiating with M/I Homes, which plans to take down the monument sign on Cory Lake Dr. just off Cross Creek Blvd. to build one of three new homes.
When you enter Cory Lake Isles (CLI) off of Cross Creek Blvd., and weave your way down Cory Lake Dr. until you can only turn left or right, you can’t help but notice the perfectly manicured orange brick marker with resplendent palm trees rising towards the clouds from behind it.
For many residents, the sign symbolizes what Cory Lake Isles is all about, with a nod to its brick roads and driveways and gorgeous landscaping that reflects a nature-centric view. “It gives you the first impression of the community,’’ said Cyril Spiro, the chair of the CLI Community Development District (CDD).
That is why the CDD is trying to save the marker, as builder M/I Homes is poised to build a home over it.
The three lots M/I is building on — with the marker situated on the middle one — were bought from the original developer and founder of Cory Lake Isles, Gene Thomason, who named the community for his son Cory (who is now a local Realtor).
Whereas the view of the property when approaching the “T” at Cory Lake Dr. used to be the marker in front of a swatch of green grass, trees and a glimpse of Cory Lake, one home already has been built and two more would completely obscure the lake’s view.
Roughly eight months ago, M/I Homes went to the CLI Property Owners Association (POA) for approval to build on the lots.
At first, residents assumed that Thomason had an easement around the marker, essentially making it public property and meaning that any home construction would have to be built around it, thus preserving it.
But, when subsequent CDD meetings with engineers revealed that there was no easement for the sign, Spiro says he and other CDD supervisors were shocked.
“My immediate reaction was, ‘How can that be?,’’” he says. “I had assumed that was public property … and that’s when the confusion set in.”
The CLI CDD then asked M/I Homes to consider the marker when building a home on the lot where the sign sits, suggesting a wraparound driveway that comes in from the left side. The house, then, would be behind the marker, which Spiro thought was reasonable because it would also keep nighttime headlights from shining through the front of a new home.
M/I was initially unwilling to consider that, Spiro says, but in a meeting last week the POA presented a design variance that the home builder has agreed to look at.
Another possible solution: M/I officials have told the CDD to make them an offer for the property.
Now, after some additional meetings and study, the CDD is preparing to do just that. The land has been privately appraised, “and we are ready to make M/I an offer,’’ Spiro says.
Spiro, who also is running for the Tampa City Council (see story on page 4), is pitching the idea of buying the property as less of an expense and more of a community asset. Doing so would put Cory Lake Isles in control of the land. Any homebuilder the CDD chooses to use to put a home on the lot would have to do so while preserving the marker.
To pay for the cost of the land, which could approach six figures, the CDD could tap into its reserve funds, where the District would essentially be borrowing the money from itself and paying itself back, or it could take out a standard loan.
He estimates the cost could be as little as $12 a year to each of the roughly 1,000 homeowners in the community to save the marker.
Spiro, who is campaigning for the City Council on a platform that includes using technology to connect communities and their representatives, hopes to get Board approval to poll CLI residents about how they feel about the marker. However, he says in many conversations with residents, has never heard from anyone who thinks the marker isn’t worth preserving.
And, while the CDD isn’t in the business of buying and selling real estate, there’s a good chance the land could one day turn a profit, paying back the loan and then some.
Spiro and the CDD are continuing to negotiate and fight for ways to save a marker they feel is important to the community.
“I know that the attraction of Cory Lake Isles to owners is the lush green of it all,” Spiro says. “The red brick roads, the trees at every home, the lake…Take out (the marker) and you’ll have a home and a big front door (that greets visitors), and it just sends a completely different message. We are a community of big homes, but that’s not all that we are, and I think (this would) give the impression that this is a community that was developed and put together to make a profit as opposed to appealing to the people and the lifestyle they want to live.”