The Mormon church in Florida is already one of the states largest landowners, claiming Deseret Ranches, which is a 290,000 acre cattle and citrus operation that covers three counties in central Florida, according to Reuters.
There are 44,000 head of cattle on that ranch, which is near the route of the All Aboard Florida privately funded train between Orlando and Miami planned for a 2015 launch.
They have owned this property, which is located 50 miles southeast of Orlando, for over 60 years. Deseret's website states it is owned by Farmland Reserves which is a non-profit company. Another firm, Deseret Cattle and Citrus, which is a division of AgReserves, is responsible for actual ranch operations.
Now the Mormon church, in a new deal with St. Joe Company, a Florida real estate firm, will become THE largest private landowner in Florida with the purchase of 400,000 acres in the states panhandle region. The deal, which is expected to be finalized in the first quarter of 2014, by the church's company, AgReserves, Inc., is in the amount of $565 million.
It still awaits regulatory and shareholder approvals, but when finalized will make the Mormon church owners of an astounding almost 2% of Florida's land mass, or exactly 672,834 acres.
The property is mostly timberland. According to St. Joe Company, the church "intends to maintain timber and agricultural uses of the lands", except for plans approved by Osceola County for future development of a 19,000-acre section of the Deseret Ranches located 10 miles from Orlando International Airport. Besides that section, virtually all of the church's holdings remain in rural and agricultural uses.
St. Joe real estate company was originally created as a paper mill enterprise by a member of the family that founded the chemical company DuPont. They will shrink its holdings big time to 184,000 acres, mostly in Northwest Florida, for proposed future real estate development.
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