MANATEE -- About 19.4 acres at Lake Manatee State Park have been removed from a preliminary list of lands Florida officials are considering selling as "surplus."
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has removed the parcel from the list, Patrick Gillespie, FDEP press secretary, confirmed Thursday. "The land came to the state from Manatee County, which originally got the land under contract from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development," he said. "The land was subject to terms regarding the contract between the county and the federal government that made it prudent to remove it from the list."
Originally, state officials listed roughly 5,300 acres as potential "surplus" comprising less than 0.2 percent of all Board of Trustees-owned land, which is roughly 3 million acres, state officials have said.
The land sale was meant to raise money with which to buy more valuable conservation parcels, Gillespie has said.
However, the list generated objections from officials in various counties, and since then, a couple dozen properties have come off the list following title reviews, Gillespie has said.
Parts of Terra Ceia Preserve State Park were among lands since removed from the "surplus" list. State officials removed 13.1 acres of the Terra Ceia Preserve park land because research showed the sites are co-owned with the Southwest Florida Water Management District, Gillespie has said.
Any land sold by the state must first be noticed to state agencies, universities and colleges, which all have first option to lease the land. If there is no interest, cities and counties can purchase the land at appraised value, Gillespie said.
If there is no interest still, it can be put up for bid. Should a bid be offered, the governor and cabinet must approve the sale and verify the land is no longer needed for conservation purposes, he said. Nick Azzara, county information outreach coordinator said Thursday after learning of the delisting: "It's a good thing. It'll remain protected land in perpetuity."
"I brought that issue to the board...and one commissioner asked if we could pursue options that would allow local governments to be able to have the first right of refusal, rather than see an environmentally sensitive piece of land sold," he said. "So, I think our board will be pleased to hear that it will remain a part of the park area."
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter@sarawrites.