BRADENTON -- A Bradenton City Council vote could come soon to begin negotiating with one of three finalists to purchase more than 200 acres near Bill Evers Reservoir, south of State Road 70 and east of Lockwood Ridge Road.
City officials are debating whether to take the highest bidder because the acreage is 10 miles outside city limits.
Ward 1 Councilman Gene Gallo said the city should take the most money.
Ward 4 Councilman Bemis Smith said all three bids were close enough for the city to take a closer look at terms of the proposed deals.
Finalists WCI Communities of Bradenton, Taylor Morrison of Bradenton and Dallas-based D.R. Horton, with three Manatee County outlets, presented conceptual development plans this month.
The approval process will not go through the city because the land is in Manatee County, but the city can place conditions on the sale to ensure developers adhere to conceptual plans.
WCI Communities presented the middle bid of $10.5 million, but offers less den
sity with 325 to 375 proposed homes. Smith said he prefers a lower density community if the city is essentially getting the same money.
Taylor Morrison, the low bid with $10 million, proposed a development of more than 500 homes.
D.R. Horton bid more than $10.6 million and proposed 530 units.
The council vote is on when to begin purchase agreement negotiations. Terms will be valid only if the developer successfully negotiates the county planning process. Should the county reject the development or the deal falls through for any other reason, the city will negotiate with one of the two remaining developers.
Feedback on the proposed sale has been mostly negative from residents saying Manatee County is being overdeveloped. Gallo said he's received calls saying the city should turn the property into a park, "but they don't realize that it's not in the city," and wouldn't benefit Bradenton residents. City Clerk Carl Callahan said there is a large county park nearby.
"I don't believe people realize that the city donated half the land to create Jiggs Landing" east of the reservoir, Callahan said. "The county needed that land to make it happen and we donated it."
Other concerns have been for the welfare of the reservoir and whether a new development would affect the city's primary water supply.
Callahan said there are no environmental concerns for the 200 acres and the reservoir is already developed on the three remaining sides with no adverse impacts.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.