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Lake Apopka: The New Florida Swampland Scam

September 14th, 2007 · 8 Comments

Lake Apopka

There are two ultra luxury communities that are being built on the shores of the so called pristine Lake Apopka, namely Bella Collina and Oakland Park, which I have no idea who is buying these lakefront properties. The last time I checked Lake Apopka is a dead lake. It wasn’t that long ago that the birds were actually falling from the sky in late 1990′s not because they were diving for food but because they were just dying. The deaths were linked to pesticides in the water from the farms that once resided along its shores.

A levee was built along the north shore of Lake Apopka in 1941 to drain 20,000 acres so that farmers could have a marsh for farming. The resulting runoff of nutrients and pesticides from the farming led to widespread pollution and the disappearance of the lake’s recreational value for people and animals.

lakepoolvert.jpgNumerous legislations have been passed from 1985-1999 to restore Lake Apopka to its former glory but the most conservative estimates give a 25 year time frame for recovery. So why in the world are people buying lakefront properties on this lake? The prices are similar or more expensive than lakefront properties on pristine bodies of water in Central Florida. We’re talking millions of dollars. The homes in the Street of Dreams event in 2006 held at Bella Collina were priced around $5 million. You can’t swim there and the only wildlife that you’ll see is probably a mutant alligator.

Here is a quote from the Bella Collina homepage that cracks me up “Lake Apopka on the other hand, measuring an impressive 48 square miles, is Orlando’s largest lake and the third largest in all of Florida. Its waters offer miles of scenic beauty and unlimited recreational opportunities. Peaceful days of fishing and quiet mornings spent gazing at light dancing on the water’s surface are balanced with afternoons of water skiing and evenings of pleasure cruises. Whether you live on the lake or simply near one, you’ll always feel the presence of water at Bella Collina, and know that its wonders are at your beck and call.” Give me a break. Oakland Park has a section on their site for “Healthy Living” & “Green Urbanism” but at least they don’t promote Lake Apopka as a pristine lake.

I have to admit the stretch of roads leading to and around these two communities are beautiful with canopies of grand oaks but this reminds me a lot of the stories I heard growing up about people buying swampland in Florida. If anyone has a clue about who’s falling for this scam, I’d like to know. Supposedly they’re selling like hotcakes.

Tags: SW Orlando Bulletin

8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Roofable » Blog Archive » Quick Hits Around Orlando Real Estate // Sep 16, 2007 at 1:25 am

    [...] the misleading marketing of companies selling property on Lake Apopka in a post titled, “Lake Apopka: the New Florida Swampland Scam“. If you’re planning to buy there, consider this insider’s view as fair warning! [...]

  • 2 Scott Taylor // Sep 16, 2007 at 11:12 am

    I found your blog through a write up about a commentary about this article on a blog called http://www.Roofable.com . I’ve wondered myself, especially in Bella Collina why they would buy here and pay such high lakefront premiums. With verbage like that in thier brochures buyers are buying it, hook line & sinker. I would bet that a major percentage of home buyers there were from out of the area. I’m a Realtor myself, and I’ve heard from some of my corporate relo buyers that Bella Collina was the place to be. tThey are hearing this before they get here! Is it possible they are basing thier opinions on advertisements??? Now that the real estate market has slowed, the sales there are now are not so brisk. I’m sure many bought there who never heard about the lake pollution. Living near the shores of Lake Apopka myself, I enjoy lake views and birds, ( plenty of birds now), but I know that I’d probably never swim in there, (I most likely won’t swim in most lakes in Florida anyway, polluted or not). I read a recent report from the Friends Of Lake Apopka website, http://www.FOLA.com , where they report that the water visibility is getting better, enough so that it’s lettting just enough light in to promote more healty plant life along the shores. It’s important to know that the lake is coming back, slowly. Phosphorus levels are decreasing but I still don’t think that developers should get away with such misleading ads. These folks can afford high priced lawyers and Ginn might be having some legal trouble.

  • 3 Class Action Lawsuit Against Bobby Ginn // Oct 14, 2007 at 10:16 pm

    [...] post about possible misrepresentation at Bella Collina was made on this blog in September that may be worth checking [...]

  • 4 Biggest SCAM Yet!!! // Mar 30, 2008 at 12:06 am

    Accused Con-Artists Face Trial in Hampton Subdivision Scam!

    Bradford County N. Florida – An old scam with a new twist is back, when you can purchase almost 2 acres of land to build your dream home in a brand new subdivision, but you can’t build anything! Developers Stephen F. Smith, Edith Ellen Smith, and Realtor/Developer Wayne E. Douglas Sr. from Douglas Realty in Starke are facing fraud charges, and numerous state & federal disclosure violations from the sale of a lot in their Edith Ellen Estates subdivision on Hampton Lake. The lot they sold is almost 99% restricted property and is in violation of Interstate Land Sales laws and other state statutes! Unlike the olden days of selling swampland that could be developed in some cases, selling restricted government land that is not disclosed to the buyer is illegal. What is it? It’s called a Government Restricted State Jurisdictional Wetland, and it is “land that is protected by the government for the bugs, bushes, and animals”, you cannot step foot on it! Buyers have no more rights to their property any other person driving down the street looking out their car window would have.

    The buyers from California researched the land with the local courthouse, property appraiser, building officials, zoning directors, and everyone said it was “good property”, a “good deal”’ and “they would buy it themselves”, etc. which obviously is not true. After moving cross-country and wasting over one hundred thousand dollars, victims are told “That’s Life” and “You Shouldn’t Listen To What People Tell You or What You Hear Them Say”? These are from people who drive around town with signs on their vehicle telling everyone to read the Bible?

    Attorneys for the plaintiffs say the lot in question is not large enough to sustain a required septic system, or any known-recorded architect’s design for a house that has ever been published or built in the area. The restrictions were not disclosed as required by State & Federal law, and the maximum dimensions squared along the street that can be developed are 40′ft. x 40′ft. as per survey, which is less than 2% of the total lot size (2.2 football fields end to end along the street). The buyers were emphatically told the entire lot could be cleared without restrictions. The lot is a permitted subdivision Drainage Easement/Jurisdictional Wetland, but NOT a home-site, and was specifically required NOT to be conveyed/deeded outside of the homeowners association according to the subdivision permit and homeowner’s association contract. The state agency issuing the permit has not been enforcing permits previously issued, which has caused numerous similar situations throughout North Florida. However, recent talks have already begun and enforcement of previously issued permits should begin later this year according to the SRWMD who issued this subdivision’s permit.

    Any conceivable defense the defendants could attempt would involve much twisting and contortion of the law, which has never been successfully done before since most people who promote these underhanded frauds eventually end up in jail say legal experts. This is probably one of the most blatant schemes out there right now to rip somebody off of their hard-earned money. Enforcement of the law is an extremely slow process, which explains why most people just quietly put up a “For Sale” sign on their land instead of complaining. The buyers have said that there is absolutely no way they will leave town without their money and are ready to fight. They are even prepared to take this matter to the Supreme Court if necessary. “This is just not right how people can steal from one another and the law expects the victims to spend thousands of dollars on attorney fees and handle everything on their own just because of budget shortfalls, etc.” “Then the perpetrators hide behind their church, that’s sacrilegious!” “ The law must be enforced and the government regulatory agencies better get their act together soon”. “They stole our home,” says Florence Gata, who is one of the buyers in the lot scam, and is legal guardian of her 82 yr.-old paralyzed mother who lives with her and her husband and now have no home in Florida. “What kind of greedy people do this to one another”? “Now my mother will never realize her dreams, those people should be ashamed of themselves and in jail!”

    The honorable judge appears to be connected with a church, the defendants are fellow members, and are wealthy well-known individuals with family resources. This may explain previous rulings that have allowed a counter suit against the plaintiffs for slander, defamation of character, and libel against the plaintiffs who are exposing the wrongdoing? This defense was allowed without reference to the law? Under the guise of a home-site, a restricted jurisdictional wetland that cannot be developed was sold. You cannot even make a campsite! However this point has not been addressed thus far, or zero need for a trial would be necessary should current law be referred to. The plaintiffs did try to amicably work things out with the sellers who were promised another lot or their money back. But the defendants never intended to remedy the situation at all, and the promises were just another lie. This fiasco has been ongoing for over 2 years now, and the trial is set for Sept. 2, 2008.

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  • 5 Biggest SCAM Yet!!! // Mar 30, 2008 at 2:46 am

    Close Call

    I know exactly where this is! My husband and I almost bought a lot here after my office mate bought one of the larger lots and encouraged me to go look. Good thing we didn’t because my friend found out through her contractor most of her land belonged to the state and she could not touch it or build on it or anything nice and she was never told anything about that by the realtor who sold it to her. She was shocked and felt like a fool for believing these people. I will advise anybody thinking about buying land in that place that doesn’t already have a house on it to hire a attorney and contractor from now on before trusting a realtor because most of them will say anything to make a sale. I can’t believe the realtor’s licensing board lets this happen. She says now everyone is trying to sell their lots but can’t and had to stop the sale of her sale of her home in Gainesville when she had a buyer. Her land in this edith ellen estates is smaller than where she lives right now and she wanted to make a bigger house. Now she’s up a creek with no paddle.

  • 6 jim goldstein // May 27, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    Never heard such a thing, a realtor suing the client?? what did you do? all you wanted is your money back! They must be hiding something BIG that’s why there fighting so hard.
    These con artist should be stop, they should go to their place where they belong…JAIL..
    Too bad the legal system is of no help.
    Keep fighting for your rights, CIVIL RIGHTS!!! and I spread the word.

  • 7 Jim // Sep 16, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    I saw on ebay a similar story in complete detail called “How To Win Any Lawsuit”. That Bradford County must got to be full of inbred retarded hillbillies trying to prove how smart they are by ripping off everyone. Then they go to church??? Please!

  • 8 Abe H. // Sep 18, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    Hey Biggest Scam,
    You just figuring out that Smith the judge and Smith the developer look alike huh? How do you think nobody ever gets busted after ripping off everyone on their bogus subdivision deals? Why don’t you think nobody else comes forward instead of everyone trying to dump their unbuildable home lots? That Edith Ellen Estates, the developers Smith, Wayne Douglas Realty, etc. are a bunch of bible thumper thieves, and that Bradford County is notorious for ripping people off. The law is meaningless, and nothing is enforced north of Ocala. You’re obviously did business with the good ole boys club, so no lawyer in town will help you. Better to take the law into your own hands and do better homework next time because you are wasting your time in the court. Good luck.