Land acquisition measure gains ground

05/21/08 Mitch E. Perry
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The Hillsborough County Commission moved closer toward having voters decide whether to continue the conservation land buying program.

The County’s Environmental Land Acquisition and Protection Program (ELAPP) is set to expire in 2011. Commissioners learned today the results of a public survey conducted last week on the potential support for extending the tax.

Will Abberger is with the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit that works with local communities around the country to generate funding for acquiring public lands. They hired the polling agency with money raised privately.

The survey was taken of 400 randomly chosen county residents. Abberger said that among those who knew about ELAPP, support was at 60 percent, prompting him to say that a well funded, well organization campaign would ensure success at the ballot box this fall.

Jan Smith, chair of the local ELAPP Committee, called the land buying program a model across Florida, and across the country.

Currently every property owner in the county pays 25 cents for every $1,000 in assessed value for the program.

Former County Commissioner Jan Platt also urged the board to support the recommendation to put the issue on the ballot.

But Commissioner Brian Blair seemed concern that the poll did not show a majority supporting the ELAPP Program.

Commissioner Jim Norman, like Jan Platt, said he was never in support of having a poll taken. He said he would have used the $15,000 that was raised to commission the survey to educate the public about the value of the program. Norman said he would have re-worded the question in the survey, and said he hoped to have the opportunity to change the ballot language.

The Board voted to have the ELAPP advocates work on re-writing the ballot language, and present it before the Commission next month.

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