December 19, 2007

Firm Buys 3,200 Acres in Rural Martin

By Eve Samples, The Palm Beach Post, Fla.

Dec. 19--One of rural Martin County's largest landowners, Carlos Garcia-Velez, has sold 3,200 acres in Hobe Sound to a company run by a Jupiter equestrian whose husband is an executive in the nuclear power business.

Canopus Sound LLC, managed by dressage competitor Martha Singh, paid Garcia-Velez $70 million last week for a swath of cattle ranch south of Bridge Road about a mile east of Interstate 95, records filed with the Martin County clerk of court show.

The deal closed Thursday, two days after the Martin County Commission voted to allow denser clusters of residential development on agriculturally zoned land.

"That makes it a much more viable, developable parcel," said Michael Dooley, a broker with Illustrated Properties in Hobe Sound, who was not involved in the deal.

Also alluring is the location across Bridge Road from the Hobe Sound Polo Club, a proposed 1,800-acre residential community where four playing fields, a track and a clubhouse are planned.

The $70 million price tag is the biggest single sale of the year in Martin County, said Deputy Martin County Property Appraiser Mike Fribourg.

The property will remain a cattle ranch for now, said Brian Webster of Webster's International Realty in Palm Beach, who brokered the sale.

But long-term plans were less clear. Webster said he didn't know what was planned but hinted that Singh's equestrian interests could play a role.

Singh did not return calls for comment.

A horse-related development would make sense for the spot, Dooley said. High land prices in Wellington have driven the equestrian crowd to Martin County, where two other polo communities are planned in Port Mayaca.

"You're probably looking at a premier polo-ground equestrian community 10 years down the road," he speculated about the Canopus Sound land.

The 3,200-acre sale represents about a third of the Martin County holdings of Garcia-Velez, who runs the Dania Beach-based property management firm Dacar Management LLC.

He amassed his Martin land during the past four years by buying parcels from Dania Beach-based developer Alberto Micha.

Garcia-Velez could not be reached for comment.

Singh is married to Kris Singh, who founded the privately held energy technology company Holtec International in 1986 and remains president and chief executive of the Marlton, N.J.-based firm.

Holtec recently was awarded contracts to provide large casks for storing spent nuclear fuel rods in Michigan and at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine, according to published reports.

Canopus Sound, which was organized in August, shares an address with Holtec International.

But Webster said plans for the Hobe Sound property will not have anything to do with Holtec's energy pursuits.

Martha Singh runs a real estate holding company with assets in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Florida, according to Holtec's Web site.

She and Kris Singh have been married since 1974 and have a home in Jupiter.

Staff researcher Sammy Alzofon contributed to this story.


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