Hillsborough Commission wants survey on ELAPP

04/16/08 Mitch E. Perry
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Hillsborough County Commissioners today said they support a survey being taken to determine where the community stands on continuing a program to buy environmentally valuable lands.

There had been concerns that they did not – or at least not County Administrator Pat Bean – but she denied that was the case today.

But Bean had told the Tampa Tribune that at a time when people are struggling to put food on the table and pay their property taxes, “do we ask them for more money to keep buying land?”

Commissioner Mark Sharpe said he wanted to discuss the issue in public because of concerns about where the Board stood after Bean’s comments were published.

The County’s Environmental Land Acquisition and Protection Program, also known as ELAPP, is set to expire in 2011. A committee has been formed to prepare a voter poll to gauge county residents' inclination to continue extending funding for the program. If it is positive, it would then be put on the ballot.

Currently every property owner in Hillsborough pays approximately $25 for every $1,000 in assessed value for ELAPP.

Dick Eckenrod is with the Land Acquisition Roundtable, a group of individuals concerned about future funding of the county program. He said his organization has worked to raise more than $12,000 from private sources to pay for the survey, which would cost $15,000. Eckenrod said the poll would be coordinated by the Trust For Public Land, a national nonprofit group.

Commissioner Jim Norman said he didn’t want to hear about any survey, but though there was a better way to try to continue the land acquistion program.

Every other commissioner weighed in, saying they supported ELAPP and wanted to see it continue. Commissioner Rose Ferlita suggested, with the struggling economy, that perhaps a ceiling be listed on how high any tax would be.

Commissioner Jim Norman proposed a motion then to have the survey taken – the Board agreed unanimously.

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