The last five acres of undeveloped land in Longbeach Village won’t be available forever.
So, Longboat Key Commissioner Gene Jaleski wants the town to consider purchasing the land, which runs an entire block between Longboat Drive and Palm Avenue, for a nature preserve.
William Conrad Saba and members of his family own the land, located on Longboat Drive just south of Broadway.
In an e-mail sent to his fellow commissioners Tuesday, June 23, Jaleski states that there are few remaining open-space parcels left on Longboat Key.
“The land would be a beautiful addition to our preserved land on the island,” said Jaleski in the e-mail, who said he has been in casual discussions with Saba about the property for six years. “Perhaps they (the Sabas) may see this as a very good time to divest themselves of otherwise hard properties to develop.”
Saba, who along with family members inherited the 14 platted parcels from his grandfather, Frank Conrad, includes a platted canal in the middle of the property and several mangroves.
Saba told The Longboat Observer he is more than willing to present the town with a purchase price for the property.
“My grandfather was never a big developer, and he always thought that land would make a good park,” Saba said. “I always thought the town should own it.”
Jaleski said that if Saba and the town could negotiate a fair sale price, the town could use the $1.8 million that’s in the town’s open-space fund to pay for the property.
Finance Director Tom Kelley said that infrastructure sales tax money might also be able to be used to pay for the land.
“There is some money that could be used to buy one of the last major open-space parcels on this island,”
Jaleski said. “It would be a nice place for a low- maintenance park that could act as a bird sanctuary.”
Saba said it’s too soon to divulge a potential sale price for the parcels.
“I am going to get with my family and discuss the potential sale before getting back to the town,” Saba said.
In the meantime, Jaleski said he would most likely request a discussion of the property at a future regular workshop to gauge the interest of his fellow commissioners.
“There’s not much land on Longboat Key that we can save from the hands of developers,” Jaleski said. “I think it’s at least worthy of a discussion.
“I never wanted to see my grandfather’s property in the Village become littered with homes,” Saba said. “It was always his vision to see the property preserved.”
Village resident and contractor Rusty Chinnis, an environmentalist and longtime advocate of open space on the island, was happy to hear about the discussions.
“It’s a fabulous idea and one I will be encouraging the commission to support,” Chinnis said. “What better time to purchase lands if funds are available.”
William Conrad Saba told The Longboat Observer that water pipes were built under the 14 parcels on Longboat Drive that Commissioner Gene Jaleski is interested in for the town’s acquisition.
But Saba’s late grandfather, Frank Conrad, said the pipes were never utilized.
The lack of use has led to foul smelling water and muck on the property and the surrounding area.
“If the town was interested in the property, it could work to get the pipes flowing water under the property,” Saba said. “It would also make the site more environmentally friendly.”