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Will Manatee County and Florida still buy Rattlesnake Key land? The deal has an issue

Time could possibly be working out for Florida and Manatee County officers to preserve among the final unspoiled wetlands in Tampa Bay.

Rattlesnake Key’s 671 acres of mangrove swamps and flatwoods are a haven for fish, manatees, birds, anglers and boaters on Tampa and Terra Ceia bays, simply south of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

Now it’s all on the market as a part of a $75 million, 1,000-acre actual property package deal.

The state and county beforehand deliberate to buy the land, setting apart $26 million for the acquisition. But the hassle stalled when a state appraisal valued the island at $7.6 million, in accordance with Honey Rand, a public relations consultant for the property homeowners.

Despite the setback, state Rep. Will Robinson, R-Bradenton, believes a deal might be reached.

“Overall, I’m hopeful that we can figure out a way to permanently preserve this pristine piece of property,” Robinson stated in an interview with the Bradenton Herald. “A lot of my constituents have reached out to me in support of this. Boaters, fishermen and those who enjoy our coastline.”

Rand says the homeowners are still keen to promote Rattlesnake Key to the state and county for $25 million.

But with $23 million in earmarked state funding set to run out on June 30, the longtime plan to show Rattlesnake Key right into a state park and environmental protect could possibly be in jeopardy.

A gross sales brochure pitches the lands as an ideally suited location for a public park — but in addition for personal endeavors like a business marina, cruise ship terminal, resort lodge or an island property residence.

Rattlesnake Key protects fishery, shoreline

For a long time, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has included Rattlesnake Key and the encircling islands on its listing of fascinating conservation areas.

The state has famous it as “some of the last natural lands left on the southeast shore of Tampa Bay.”

Why flip it right into a state park?

“The project will protect and restore this natural area, preserve the fishery and manatee feeding grounds in Terra Ceia Aquatic Preserve and give the public an area in which to fish, boat and enjoy the original landscape of Tampa Bay,” FDEP’s 2023 Florida Forever Plan says.

The present homeowners have allowed the property to operate as a de facto public park for many years, which locals have loved for fishing and kayaking.

Time could be running out for Florida and Manatee County officials to preserve Rattlesnake Key and surrounding wetlands on Terra Ceia Bay and Tampa Bay as the properties go up for sale to private buyers. The area is shown in this June 2021 Bradenton Herald file photo.Time could be running out for Florida and Manatee County officials to preserve Rattlesnake Key and surrounding wetlands on Terra Ceia Bay and Tampa Bay as the properties go up for sale to private buyers. The area is shown in this June 2021 Bradenton Herald file photo.

Time could possibly be working out for Florida and Manatee County officers to protect Rattlesnake Key and surrounding wetlands on Terra Ceia Bay and Tampa Bay because the properties go up on the market to non-public patrons. The space is proven on this June 2021 Bradenton Herald file photograph.

The land has additionally been recognized for its potential to assist curb the effects of climate change.

“This category includes lands that provide opportunities to sequester carbon, provide habitat, protect coastal lands or barrier islands, and otherwise mitigate and help adapt to the effects of sea-level rise and meet other objectives of the program,” in accordance with FDEP.

Tampa Bay Estuary Program, a part of the National Estuary Program, has additionally backed the hassle to accumulate Rattlesnake Key.

In a 2021 letter to state legislators, TBEP’s coverage board stated it strongly supported the acquisition “for the public and environmental benefit of the Tampa Bay estuary.”

“The Key contains several important estuarine and coastal upland habitats that we’re striving to expand within the watershed,” TBEP Executive Director Ed Sherwood stated in an e-mail Wednesday.

“These marshes, mangroves, and other habitats sustain a variety of fish and wildlife species and support nature-based experiences that invite the community to build a deep connection to Tampa Bay,” TBEP assistant director Maya Burke added.

Burke pointed to a 2023 report by the TBEP and the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council that estimated that coastal wetlands and mangroves in Manatee County present over $70 million in flood safety advantages over a 30-year interval.

Water high quality advocacy group Suncoast Waterkeeper echoed the significance of Rattlesnake’s mangrove habitat.

“These mangroves are the backbone of our economy as they provide a productive fish nursery that supports recreational and commercial fisheries in our region,” stated Suncoast Waterkeeper Executive Director Abbey Tyrna in an e-mail. “The mangroves provide a buffer for storm surges that cannot be replicated or engineered.”

As we lose these crucial techniques, we chip away at our well-being, without end spoiling what makes the Suncoast so particular,” Tyrna stated.

Owners open to ‘fair offer’ from state

Despite $23 million from state lawmakers in 2022 and a promise from Manatee County to contribute an additional $3 million, a deal for the acquisition has not been reached.

An appraisal by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection valued the land at $7.6 million, far beneath what the homeowners anticipated to obtain, in accordance with Rand.

“If they can get a fair offer, they’re ready to have discussions,” Rand stated.

Rand stated the homeowners she represents would favor to have the land go to conservation — however provided that the value is true.

Rand claims that the state’s appraisal missed 30 acres of upland habitat and different elements in regards to the island that resulted in sharply undervaluing the property.

FDEP officers acknowledged a request for remark however didn’t reply earlier than Wednesday afternoon.

“I get what the state is doing. We’re dealing with taxpayer money,” Robinson stated. “And (the property owners) have to do what they have to do, and we respect that.”

These owners have a right to make money on the property,” Rand stated. “If you have a willing seller, why would you slow walk it? It’s just a matter of time until someone in the private sector decides they want this land.”

Manatee County says conservation funds still obtainable

Manatee County Government officers say that they still help efforts to buy Rattlesnake Key.

“Preserving Rattlesnake Key is a high priority of the Manatee County Commission,” an announcement supplied by county spokesperson Bill Logan stated. “We were happy to be partners with the State of Florida in the first attempt to purchase the island and we will continue to work hard to protect the Key from potential development.

“The $3 million is in reserves and still available for any Environmental Lands Management and Acquisition Committee (ELMAC) project that goes through their process of prioritization,” the assertion stated.

State Sen. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, led efforts to safe funding for the land buy, with assist from Robinson. Boyd didn’t reply to the Bradenton Herald’s request for remark this week.

That funding is about to run out June 30. This 12 months’s state funds, which has but to be signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, allocates a decreased quantity of $8 million for the acquisition of Rattlesnake Key.

“Folks just want a place to peacefully enjoy Old Florida,” Robinson stated. “Every day we seemingly lose properties like this.”

Suncoast Waterkeeper inspired elected officers to “keep their sleeves rolled up” and make a deal to guard Rattlesnake Key.

Tyrna pointed to Manatee County’s latest land buy to broaden the close by Emerson Point Preserve. When it regarded like negotiations have been near failing, Tyrna stated officers have been in a position to get a higher appraisal that “saved the deal.”

“We believe they can do it again for Rattlesnake Key,” Tyrna stated.

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