Hillsborough commission to transfer Cone Ranch to ELAPP for book value listen01/21/10 Seán Kinane
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This afternoon, the Hillsborough County Commission took another step in protecting Cone Ranch. In a six to one vote, the Commissioners, including Kevin Beckner, agreed the twelve thousand acre property north of Plant City should be transferred to the county’s land preservation program.
In 2008, county residents voted to increase funding for its Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program, ELAPP. Cone Ranch is owned by the county’s water utility. But last year, a group offered to broker the sale of the property to six private landowners. Commissioner Ken Hagan set up an environmental advisory panel to study what should be done with Cone Ranch – it recommended transferring the property to ELAPP.
But how much would ELAPP have to pay the water utility for Cone Ranch? The water utility has insisted that a “fair market value” be determined through appraisals, but many environmentalists suggested the transfer be at Cone Ranch’s “book value,” which is considerably less. Last year, the ELAPP citizens committee made Cone Ranch its highest ranked priority.
Mariella Smith, a member of that committee, reacted with joy after today’s vote. Smith says the book value is about $12 million – but if a quarter million dollar appraisal would have been needed, the fair market value for Cone Ranch might have cost ELAPP fifty million dollars.
Al Higginbotham was the only commissioner to vote against the purchase at book value.