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Date of Issue: August 16, 2007

For FISH: One down, two to go for Preserve

FISH folks are a happy bunch in the wake of last week’s notice that a parcel of land within the preserve is being donated to the not-for-profit group.

The Florida Institute of Saltwater Heritage heard that Phillip Greenwell has said he would donate his interior lot on the northern section of the 94-acre preserve to the group. Bea Zaffina, a longtime lover of Cortez and a real estate agent, said she had talked to him about the matter and basically said he couldn’t build there anyway, so why pay taxes?

Greenwell agreed.

FISH purchased a large area of property east of Cortez several years ago as a hedge against development encroachment to the village, which has long withstood creeping condominium “enhancements” that affects other areas of “old” Florida.

The Greenwell donation could serve to entice the other two property owners within the FISH preserve to also offer their land to the not-for-profit group, said Roger Allen, executive director of the Gulf Coast Maritime Museum housed at the historic schoolhouse on 119th Street in Cortez.

Allen said that the Manatee County property appraiser had plugged in a figure of a bit less than $20,000 for all three properties still FISH-unattached. One parcel, owned by Iris LeMasters of Grand Rapids, Mich., was offered for $1 million, but taken off the market after a year and a half when no buyers came forward.

The FISH property, Allen said, has a slew of platted lots and rights of way. FISH has been working with Manatee County and the Florida Department of Transportation to basically un-deed the rights of way. A snag has presented itself with the private ownership of the LeMasters’ property, which DOT says has to have its access protected for any future development.

Another snag, though, comes through the LeMasters’ property fronting on Sarasota Bay, at the end of a long as-yet-unbuilt street. Allen forsees that a retention pond to contain the stormwater runoff on the future street, utilities to the property, as well as a lift-pump for the sewage service, could jack up the cost of the construction of any building into very high numbers.

The property discussion and other matters were expected to come before the FISH board when it meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14, at the Cortez Community Center on 123rd St. Ct. W.