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Date of Issue: June 25, 2008

State reviewing grant request for park

The Florida Communities Trust expects to evaluate by mid-August a grant request from Bradenton Beach for a new park on the Gulf of Mexico.

FCT community programs manager Ken Reecy said the grant request from the city will be considered in the fiscal 2008 funding cycle.

He also said the state would probably release an evaluation of the grant application in August.

In April, the city commission approved the grant application for the acquisition of beachfront parcels. The property addresses are 1402, 1404, 1412 and 1414 Gulf Drive.

The beachfront property is caught up in litigation between the city and the current owners, Island Inc. and Beach Development Inc. The dispute over whether the land can be developed goes back years.

The developers sought to build on the land. The city commission eventually voted against development due to being zoned according to the sensitive nature of the waterfront property.

The dispute went to court, where the city won one round and the developers won on appeal. While the matter remains before the courts, both sides went through a mediation session last year and want a resolution.

The mediation resulted in a finding that the city should buy the land, a suggestion the city previously proposed, but the developers rebuffed.

The city is now looking for state assistance in financing a purchase. A potential money source is a grant from Florida Communities Trust, a state land-acquisition grant program that provides funding to local governments and non-profit environmental groups to acquire community-based parks, open spaces and greenways.

About $66 million is available each funding cycle from the FCT’s Florida Forever program, unless the Legislature votes differently. Last year the FCT awarded more than $76 million in the Florida Forever program.

The city applied for the grant May 1. The application indicates that the city will contribute 30 percent toward the property purchase - about $600,000 if the $2 million is an accurate price.

The city could establish the site as a park, possibly offering some amenities, such as a picnic shelter and a kiosk for an education center to promote sea turtle awareness.