Lennar purchases undeveloped land in St. Charles
Officials say purchase will end litigation over school allocation
St. Charles Community LLC announced on Tuesday that the Lennar Corporation has purchased 2,400 acres of commercial, industrial and residential properties in St. Charles. Included in the sale is most of the remaining undeveloped land in the community.
According to the Charles County Government, the Lennar purchase is one of the largest land acquisitions in the state in recent years. It represents nearly 40 percent of the total acreage in the St. Charles planned community.
In acquiring the land, Lennar also gains ownership of the St. Charles Planned Unit Development, or PUD, the agreement with the county that regulates property development in the community. The St. Charles
Companies, which sold the land and the PUD to Lennar, will retain ownership of more than 2,600 apartments in 17 St. Charles communities along with several parcels that will be developed for multi-family, commercial and retail uses.
In negotiating the sale, the county asked for and received assurances from Lennar that it would construct 2,500 fewer homes on the newly acquired properties.
“When you look at the potential number of houses to be built under the old agreement, for Lennar to be willing to work with us to reduce that number by over 2,500 we look at that as a really positive step,” said Board of County Commissioners’ President Peter Murphy (D). “We really appreciate that they see the value in it and were willing to work with us on that.”
The county believes that the smaller number of houses will help reduce overcrowding both in schools and on neighboring roads.
In a press release issued by the St. Charles Companies, Ryan Houck, president of Lennar’s Maryland division, is quoted as saying, “As the nation’s second largest homebuilder, we understand the commitment an acquisition like this requires and we will work diligently to always best serve the interests of the residents, county officials and fellow constituents.”
The St. Charles Companies declined an interview request.
The sale also brings to an end the ongoing litigation over whether the county commissioners hold sole discretion over the amount of school allocations awarded to St. Charles. The St. Charles Companies, the previous owners of the PUD, had been appealing a January 2015 ruling by Prince George’s County Circuit Judge Dwight Jackson granting the commissioners authority over the number of school allocations. The St. Charles Companies argued that the community was entitled to a minimum of 300 school allocations annually.
“The goal is to reach an agreement on the overall quality of the project and a reduction of units overall, and then to come up with a formula for the number of units that the commissioners would agree to on a yearly basis,” said County Administrator Mark D. Mallin off.
Murphy said that Lennar had become interested in purchasing the undeveloped land as a way to grow its business from building individual homes to building whole communities. “I think we made it clear to them that that’s what we were interested in as well, and they seemed very agreeable to work with us on that,” he said.
Lennar has been building homes in Maryland since 2004. It is one of three builders of homes in St. Charles, along with Ryan and D.R. Horton.
The next steps include a detailed review by the Charles County Planning Commission. Based on the commission’s recommendations, the county commissioners will then hold public hearings on the commission’s report.
Murphy said he is pleased with the way all parties involved in the sale have worked together to ensure an outcome that benefits not just the parties involved but also residents of St. Charles and the county.
“I think the outcome is a good indication of the willingness of Charles County Government and the private sector to work together,” Murphy said.
The 2,400-acre purchase by Lennar of undeveloped property in St. Charles is said to be the largest real estate transaction in the state during the last few years.