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East County Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020 1 year ago

Environmentally significant lands referendum passes in Manatee County

Manatee County voters overwhelmingly pass referendum to raise $50 million to purchase land for environmental protection
by: Brendan Lavell Staff Writer

Manatee County voters overwhelmingly passed a referendum Tuesday to acquire as much as $50 million worth of land for the purpose of environmental protection.

The referendum, approved by 71.27% of county voters, is dedicated to "finance the acquisition, improvement, and management of land to protect drinking water sources and water quality, preserve fish and wildlife habitat, prevent stormwater runoff pollution, and provide parks." The money will be raised by instituting a 0.15 mill ad valorem tax over 20 years.

Christine Johnson, the president of the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast who spearheaded the referendum, said Manatee County has long been at a disadvantage compared to other counties on Florida’s Gulf Coast, many of which have dedicated funding sources for land conservation. She pointed out that only 13% of Manatee County’s land is conserved, compared to a 30% average statewide.

“Wouldn't it be great if we had some parks in East County like Robinson Preserve?” Johnson said. “We all live here because it's beautiful. We all live here because we want to be near nature and this wonderful weather.”

In addition to public recreation and preserving natural habitats, Johnson said the funds can be used to protect land next to drinking water sources, such as Lake Manatee and the Braden River. She also said the money can be used for neighborhood “pocket parks.”

Additionally, Johnson said residents who live near protected lands and parks will see benefits via their home value.

“Any citizen can [list] a piece of property to be considered for conservation,” Johnson said. “So I would truly encourage all readers to familiarize themselves with the county's process for that if they know of a property, if they are a landowner that is considering selling a conservation easement or selling their land for preserves or park space.”

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Brendan Lavell is a general assignment reporter for the Observer. He earned degrees in journalism and history at the University of Missouri. He has visited 48 of the 50 United States, has a black cat named Arya and roots for the Eagles, Flyers, Phillies, 76ers and Chelsea FC.

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