Debate over Cone Ranch's fate continue

08/24/09 Mitch E. Perry
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A bid to reject a private developer from purchasing Cone Ranch in eastern Hillsborough County was narrowly rejected today, tying at 3 votes apiece.

The vote occurred during a meeting to discuss the fate of the 12,800 acre ranch, which the County’s Water Department has owned for decades.

The County Ranch Environmental Development Team consists of a 7 member panel, each selected by a County Commissioner.

Board member Pamela Jo Hatley said that currently the public does not have access to Cone Ranch.

With the panel’s next meeting not scheduled until October, environmentalist Dee Layne, named to the panel by Commission Chair Ken Hagen, said it was unfair to have the group trying to buy the land, Florida Conservation and Environmental Group, or FCGE, wait until that time to know where the panel stood with them.

Chairman of the Panel Heidi McCree wanted to wait until the next meeting before making such a decision.

Other panel members agreed. Before the vote, however, Kent Jones, the attorney for FCGE, asked if he could address the panel. He was shouted down.

The next meeting of the panel is set for October 12, after ELAPP has met to consider moving Cone Ranch to the top of their list of properties to acquire.

The FC&EG timeline, which was included in their "Permanent Preservation Plan for Cone Ranch", calls for the approval of their proposal by the BOCC on October 15.

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