- July 12, 2016
Longboat Key commissioners declined to pursue the purchase of more than 2 acres of vacant land on Gulf of Mexico Drive last week.
The Mote Scientific Foundation, which was established by William R. Mote in 1963, offered a plot of vacant land at the intersection of Gulf of Mexico Drive and Jungle Queen Way to the town last month. The land was last assessed at $1.1 million, according to the Manatee County property appraiser’s website.
Town Manager Dave Bullock sought direction from commissioners about whether to begin negotiations for a possible purchase.
“Even though this is a nice chunk of property, and it’s a little bit tempting, I’m not inclined to go with it,” said Commissioner Phill Younger.
Planning, Zoning and Building Director Alaina Ray said that although the parcel has canal access, the recreational opportunities for the site are minimal because it is two blocks from Joan M. Durante Park.
“They passed up on a very good opportunity, but it’s OK, and I understand,” said Kumar Mahadevan, foundation trustee and president emeritus of Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium. “The foundation has had several offers, but before we pursued them, we wanted to make sure we had the chance to preserve it and protect it by offering it to the town.”
If the town had chosen to purchase the land, it would have had about $2.7 million available in its land acquisition fund, which is designated for the purchase, expansion and improvement of parks and open space. The Longboat Observer highlighted the growing fund in a June 15 article.
In declining the purchase, commissioners cited the burgeoning town center partnership with Ringling College of Art and Design, which will require money from that fund for site work, as well as the need for more priorities that provide beach access.
“I think there are other properties that are significantly more important to us right now in terms of future assessment and evaluation,” Mayor Jack Duncan said.
Further, if the town bought the property, it would become tax exempt.
“I don’t think we need any more properties off the tax roll,” Younger said.
The land has been for sale for several years, and the Mote foundation has turned down several offers, including one for a church.
“We’ve had other offers, but we were not happy with going in that direction,” Mahadevan said. “We’ve had several kinds of uses that have been suggested. Given our mission, we would have preferred a park or open space use.”
When the land is purchased, the money from the sale will go toward the Mote foundation’s programs.
“We need the funds to help programs, and there’s really no reason for us to carry land like that,” Mahadevan said. “It’s very important to us to get funds so that we can put it back in supporting various marine science and research programs. We give our grants for a lot of Sarasota Bay studies, so that’s what we’re looking for.”
The lot of roughly 2 acres that the Mote Scientific Foundation offered the town is zoned for limited commercial uses, or C-1. The buildings are restricted to two stories and a height of 30 feet. Here’s a list of some acceptable businesses that could open on the land:
— Convenience store
— Beauty salon
— Small drug store
— Photography studio
— Art studio
— Grocery store*
*With a special exception from the town