North Port's McCall Ranch to be auctioned to the highest bidder

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Posted: Monday, February 10, 2014 5:21 pm | Updated: 5:25 pm, Thu Feb 13, 2014.

A huge land auction is set for this week in North Port, where 5700 acres of the McCall Ranch will be sold to the highest bidder. You may have noticed the sale mentioned in local advertisements and on billboards. There is even a brochure about it at the gate. But the property isn't going to go to just anyone -- not with the sellers asking $30 million for the land.

The property is located just north of I-75 and was once slated as the future site of 13,000 homes. North Port city leaders are very interested to find out what the future holds for the site. Someone could do a lot with that much land butting up against the interstate.

"This land is like it was 100 years ago. It's beautiful," said the National Auction Group's Shannon Lewis. Right now the ranch is used mostly for hunting, but the sellers are hoping to bag a bidder willing to pay at least $6,000 an acre, which comes to more that $34 million for the whole parcel.

"There in not another piece in Florida other then the Everglades this size, Lewis said. "There are huge hammock oaks. You have streams. You have lakes. It's a magnificent property. One of a kind."

But there's one group you won't see with a paddle in their hands anytime soon.

"The city of North Port will not be bidding on that property." That according to North Port Mayor Jim Blucher, who also says the sale was discussed at a special meeting Monday morning. For now, though, he says the city is just keeping a close eye on the sale.

"I think we showed the public and the nation that we're going to watch this property very closely," Blucher said. "The city of North Port has a lot of our future involved in that property."

The property was annexed into the city during the building boom last decade. Originally slated as the site of the Isles of Athena project, which would have included 13,000 homes and millions of square feet in retail space had it ever been built, the property has not been rezoned, though Blucher says it's in the city's comprehensive plan.

"We needed some large tracks of land where we could build more expensive housing and some commercial property," Blucher said. "We have to offset our tax base."

Of course, there are also some environmentally sensitive areas in the nine square mile track.

"There is an area out there that we call the Orange Hammock area that I have seen and walked. It should never be built on," says Blucher.

The property is currently going through bankruptcy, which has led to this auction. Just a few years ago the land sold for more than $60 million, though current reports suggest it may not even be worth the $30-plus million the owners are hoping to get for it.

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