Jubilee land donation woes worsen

The Atlanta attorneys who claim ownership of the 2,718-acre parcel known as Jubilee say the dispute over their right to donate it to Santa Rosa County may go on indefinitely.

In an email from Jubilee Investment Holdings LLC sent Wednesday to Santa Rosa County Attorney Roy Andrews, Ricky Novak—a principal in the proposed deal—said that clearing up the internal quarrel over the property’s future may take “weeks, months or even longer.”

The donation, in which the Jubilee partners would essentially trade the land in return for millions of dollars in federal income tax credits, had tentatively been scheduled to be finalized by the end of 2016.

County officials have described the prospective donation as the largest gift of property to Santa Rosa County in its history.

But the transaction stalled when developer Ron Reeser, an Atlanta investor in the Jubilee partnership, objected in Santa Rosa Circuit Court. Although that case has been dismissed, the legal fight has now moved to Georgia, where all the partners and their business entities are based.

“I honestly think we should put everything on hold for the time being,” Novak wrote to Andrews. “We do not have any clear indication as to how long it will take to resolve the current dispute involving the property. Could be weeks, months, or even longer.  Let’s all plan to sit tight until I have a clearer picture on these issues.”

Last fall Novak and another Jubilee partner in Atlanta, James Freeman, had cautioned the county that if the transaction couldn’t be completed by Dec. 31, 2016, they planned to donate it to a conservation trust—effectively ending the possibility of developing the land. County officials hope to turn some of the property into roads, schools and other public infrastructure.

But Reeser told the Navarre Press this week that he’s pursuing a possible buyout of Freeman and Novak. If Reeser can find new partners to front most of the property’s estimated value—which ranges from $4 million to more than $10 million—he plans to develop much of it into single-family housing.

Reeser helped organize Jubilee Investment Holdings partners in their purchase of the land for $3.9 million in March 2015. But the majority of that group, led by Freeman and Novak, later decided to donate the land and seek tax credits rather than develop it.


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