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Date of Issue: March 01, 2007

County commission OKs Perico purchase

lakes pic
New lake on Perico
From the air, the lake under construction at the St. Joe company's SevenShores condominium development on Perico Island looks almost like a series of connected waterways. Islander Photo: Jack Elka

Manatee County commissioners voted 7-0 to purchase and conserve more than 231 acres of land on Perico Island during a special meeting Feb. 20.

The unanimous vote followed about 10 minutes of discussion but years of consideration and hours of talks.

The special meeting was called on Feb. 15, after officials worked out an agreement between the county and the landowner, Hayden Lane 1 Ltd.

"This is a good deal," said Manatee County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann.

The purchase option was part of a legal settlement involving the county, the city of Bradenton, the St. Joe Co. and Hayden Lane. The dispute was over St. Joe’s SevenShores condominium project, approved by the city of Bradenton after the municipality annexed the land from the county.

The controversial SevenShores project located to the north of Manatee Avenue just east of the Anna Maria drawbridge involves the construction of 686 high-rise luxury condominiums built among lakes, walking trails and conservation areas.

St. Joe had entered into a contract with Hayden Lane, a company owned by Whiting Preston of the Manatee Fruit Co., to purchase the Perico Island land and submitted plans to Bradenton for a multi-building, multi-story residential development.

The county, along with ManaSota-88 and the cities of Anna Maria, Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach, objected to the size and scope of the development, some of it involving environmentally sensitive land and a shoreline of mangroves.

In October 2004, the county negotiated a settlement that resulted in a redesign of the project with the county receiving an exclusive option to purchase land adjacent to the pending development.

The property, valued at $6 million, consists of about 55.62 upland acres and 175.84 wetland acres.

The county’s plan involves conserving the land for public use and possibly a tie-in with the nearby Robinson Preserve.

County commissioners took a preliminary vote endorsing the purchase in early February. In the days that followed, county representatives worked with an attorney for the landowner to reach an agreement that set a closing date of June 6.

During the meeting last week, commissioners asked for a few details about financing the purchase and conditions attached to the sale.

County finance manager JimSeuffert said the county would probably finance the purchase with a loan and then apply for a Florida Communities Trust grant in the next year or so.

The county’s senior assistant attorney, Patricia McVoy, and Hayden Lane’s attorney, Kevin Hennessy, explained a provision in the agreement that would result in the county turning over one acre of the property if the city of Bradenton requires a new fire station to serve the SevenShores development.

Both lawyers agreed that the provision would be taken into account when an appraisal is conducted.

Letters from St. Joe project manager Joe Romanowski and Bradenton City Clerk Carl Callahan contained no objections to the sale.

"We look forward to working closely with the county to ensure that the option property is used in a manner that is compatible and complimentary to surrounding residential areas," Romanowski wrote.

The county’s decision to purchase the property has won endorsements from Anna Maria Island residents.

"I’m pleased, very pleased," said Bradenton Beach resident Paul Shrader, who drives past Perico at least twice a day on his way to  and from work. "We have to take care of Florida."

"I think this is what we need to do to be good stewards in our state," said Michael Reece, of Holmes Beach, who often fishes near Perico.