Construction is set to begin soon on an RV resort in Holly Hill. Here's who's building it.

HOLLY HILL ― After years working to get his Holly Hill RV Resort project off the ground, Robin Hanger's dream of providing visiting Pictona pickleball players a place to stay is finally set to become a reality.

The Holly Hill businessman looks forward to being the first to camp there, but not as its owner.

That's because he recently sold the 25 acres at 490 Flomich St. on Oct. 6 to Julie Mericle Smith of DeLand and Larry Kaylor of Colorado. They hope to break ground on the $7 million-plus project by year's end.

Larry Kaylor and Julie Mericle Smith stand on the former Bishops Dairy property at 490 Flomich St. in Holly Hill on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023. The two recently bought the 25-acre site from local businessman Robin Hanger so they can fulfill his dream of turning it into a recreational vehicle campground. They hope their planned Lake Belle RV Resort can cater in part to pickleball enthusiasts coming from all over the country to play at the Pictona pickleball complex down the street.

The resort will offer an array of amenities

Smith and Kaylor confirmed their intentions to carry out Hanger's vision — with some tweaks.

They've already changed the project's name to Lake Belle RV Resort.

"Belle is the name of my eldest child," said Smith whose daughter is a student at Florida State University. She and her husband also have a son in high school in DeLand.

Plans call for Lake Belle RV Resort to include 90 recreational vehicle campsites with electric/water/sewer utility hook-ups. It will also have a building with an office, a bathhouse with restrooms, showers and laundry facilities, and a club store. Rental paddleboards and kayaks will be available to use on a planned 10-acre lake.

Other amenities include a swimming pool, a 1.2 mile-long exercise trail surrounding the park, and covered pavilion that could host live music.

The goal is to open the RV resort in time for next year's Biketoberfest.

Campsite rental rates have not yet been determined, but will be competitive with RV parks offering similar amenities, Smith said.

How the sale came about

Smith and her husband Kenneth own an IT consulting business called Strongback Consulting. She said they've enjoyed camping in RVs for years, but always rented them until this past April when they finally bought one. Excited to try it out, Smith was frustrated to discover most RV parks are fully booked months in advance.

"I thought, I could fill that demand," she said of her interest in opening an RV park of her own. After learning about Hanger's project, she offered to buy his Flomich Street property just as he was about to put it up for sale.

She recruited Kaylor as a partner in the venture. The former Kennedy Space Center worker who still owns a house in Cocoa has developed real estate projects in Colorado where he maintains his primary residence. "It just looked like a very interesting project," he said.

The property had other potential buyers

Robin Hanger stands on the site of a future RV resort he hoped to build at 490 Flomich St. in Holly Hill on Oct. 18, 2022. The Holly Hill native sold the 25-acre former dairy farm on Oct. 6, 2023, to Julie Mericle Smith of DeLand and Larry Kaylor of Colorado after the two pledged to build the project, in part to cater to pickleball enthusiasts who play at the Pictona complex down the street. Smith and Kaylor hope to break ground on the planned Lake Belle RV Resort by year's end.

Hanger received interest from other potential buyers, but only wanted to sell the Flomich Street property to someone who could turn it into an RV park, said Holly Hill Vice Mayor John Penny.

Hanger confirmed the money he sold it for just recouped what he spent on the project.

"I sold it because I would have been doing it by myself," said Hanger. "The new owners are more experienced (in real estate development) and I felt like it would be a better opportunity for the city."

Hanger initially partnered with Rainer and Julie Martens on the RV resort project, but the Ormond Beach couple pulled out earlier this year.

The Martens developed and run the 49-court Pictona pickleball complex a mile down the street at 1060 Ridgewood Ave.

Rainer Martens said he and his wife have all they can handle overseeing Pictona, which draws pickleball players from around the world. The complex has hosted several regional, national and international pickleball tournaments, with 10 more scheduled in 2024.

Pictona opened in the summer of 2020. It now has 1,200 members, far exceeding expectations, said Martens. "We could very well be at 1,500 members by the end of the year."

Martens said he and his wife are thrilled that Smith and Kaylor are committed to building the RV resort. "We get people (who play at Pictona) telling us all the time that they wished there were RV facilities nearby," he said.

The future RV resort is also next to the Riveria Country Club golf course at 500 Calle Grande St. and a short drive to the Halifax River where the City of Holly Hill has a boat ramp at Sunrise Park.

The project has most of the necessary permits

This is the logo for the Lake Belle RV Resort that real estate investors Julie Mericle Smith of DeLand and business partner Larry Kaylor of Colorado plan to build at 490 Flomich St. in Holly Hill. The two bought the 25-acre former dairy farm on Oct. 6, 2023 and hope to break ground on the project by year's end. They hope its customers will include visiting pickleball enthusiasts in town to play at the Pictona complex down the street.

The project already has permits from the St. Johns River Water Management District and Florida Department of Environmental Protection as well as preliminary approvals from the city.

"The permits from the St. Johns River Water Management District and Florida DEP were the hardest to get," said Penny, who praised Hanger for patiently steering the project through the arduous approval process.

"All the new owners need to do is submit their final site plans for the city's planning department staff to review and then submit an application for the building permit after selecting their general contractor," said Penny.

Smith and Kaylor could conceivably obtain their permit from the city within weeks, he added.

Kaylor said there's lots of work to be done in the meantime.

"It's a big piece of property and we're going to have to touch every part of it," he said of the need to install underground utilities throughout the site as well as building roads and creating the manmade lake. "I can't wait to start digging dirt."

Site holds sentimental value for Hanger

The largest of the four land parcels Hanger assembled for the RV resort used to be Bishops Dairy, a family business where the Holly Hill native worked as a kid. The 15.5-acre former farm sat unused for many years with the exception of occasional Civil War reenactments.

Hanger, who owns Robin Hanger's Car Shop and Best Price Trailers on Ridgewood Avenue, said he wanted to build the RV resort to draw more visitors to the city he loves and has called home his entire life.

"I'm really excited about it," he said of Smith and Kaylor's plans to carry out the project. "They're going to build my dream."

This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Holly Hill may soon get a new RV resort. Here's who plans to build it.