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A custom-home builder based in Melbourne has bought a contentious Lake Helen subdivision with 44 estate-sized, undeveloped homesites.

Vintage Estate Homes paid $1.144 million for the lots, said Steve Costa, an associate at NAI Realvest Charles Wayne Commercial, who negotiated the transaction on behalf of the seller, D.R. Horton Inc.

According to a news release, Costa worked closely with the City of Lake Helen and its Historic Preservation Board to ensure the buyer would be a good fit for the city’s architectural gateway standards that maintain an Old Florida feel.

“The City of Lake Helen became convinced about the quality of Vintage Estate Homes’ designs, and they are now enthusiastic about seeing the subdivision move forward,” said Costa in the news release.

In late 2015, after building some homes, D.R. Horton’s Emerald Homes division had gotten approval for 16 new home designs from the city’s then-administrator, Jason Yarborough, after the city’s architectural consulting firm said they “substantially” complied with the city’s design guidelines.

The consulting firm, GAI Consultants Inc., made several suggestions to improve the designs, but Yarborough did not require Emerald Homes to incorporate any of the suggested changes.

Residents, however, complained that the new designs could hurt their property values and destroy the historic aesthetic of the city. They appealed to the City Commission, which overturned Yarborough’s decision in October 2016.

Horton sued the following month, but lost in a decision rendered early this year.

Now, the Orlando division of Vintage Estate Homes plans to build single-family homes in a variety of architectural styles on the finished lots.

“We’re very excited about the project,” Tim Durkin, division president, told The Beacon. “The city has been welcoming, and we’re ready to work with the city.”

Vintage Estate Homes is building similar homes at Oakland Park in Winter Garden, the news release states.

This is not Vintage Estate Homes’ first foray into Volusia County. The company has been building in both DeBary and DeLand, according to Durkin.

Vintage Estate Homes will be completing and opening models in the spring or summer of 2019 at the Woods of Lake Helen, located off Main Street in the rural town, but it’s too early to say how many different models will be offered or what the price range will be, Durkin said.

— Beacon staff writer Anthony DeFeo contributed to this report.

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