The power of the people proved resilient Tuesday as a 33-acre plot of woods is one step closer to being saved from development and turned into a county park. But interested parties will have just five months to make the deal.
The $3 million property, which sits on the north side of the Braden River between the Braden Woods and River Club developments, was once poised to be turned into 32 Neal Communities homes and would have created a thoroughfare from Linger Lodge Road to Clubhouse Drive.
Dubbed the “Braden River Preserve” by the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast, the property’s becoming a passive park hinges on whether the surrounding area will approve of a new municipal services taxing unit (MSTU) in order to fund its acquisition.
The only other special purpose MSTU in the county is the Palm Aire MSTU, which was established 26 years ago to fund projects specific to the community.
The plan, which was unanimously approved by Manatee County commissioners Tuesday, includes a public informational hearing on what a new taxing unit would mean before sending out postcard polls to about 1,400 households in the Braden Woods area.
Gary Hebert, president of Friends of Keep Woods Inc., said that he expects the postcards to be sent sometime in late November or early December.
Deputy County Administrator Dan Schlandt told commissioners that if more than half of the property owners support the taxing unit, he hopes that a public hearing to consider establishing it can occur in January 2018. The agreement on the property’s acquisition is available until March.
The taxing unit would pay off the property over 30 years, with the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast facilitating the transaction.
An additional 11 acres adjacent to the property, owned by the late Carl Bergstresser whose will had indicated he wanted the land to be conserved, may be added to the conservation project. According to Manatee County court records, it's still being mediated as to who — a nonprofit, as his will states, or his siblings — inherits the property.
“It’s been a real joy to see the citizens come together like this,” Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said.
Hebert said he was “pleased” with how the the vote went.
“Obviously, all the commissioners are behind this project,” Hebert said. “They want to see the land preserved as we do.”