Developer walks, offering Pinellas second possibility at 100-acre preserve

Activists and regional officials on Tuesday cleared their to start with major hurdle to preserving 44 wooded acres in unincorporated Pinellas County.

Pulte Homes, the developer beneath deal to buy the residence, backed out at the conclude of its owing diligence period, in accordance to Nathan Hightower, an lawyer symbolizing the estate of the late Gladys Douglas selling the land.

Now the problem for nearby authorities is to safe funding by January, the deadline Hightower is supplying the city of Dunedin and Pinellas County to make an give in advance of opening the doorway to developers again.

On Tuesday, the Dunedin Metropolis Commission devoted $2 million toward getting the residence, highlighting the will need for Pinellas County funding and a point out grant to fill the hole. Pulte was below contract to acquire the land for $14.5 million, but City Supervisor Jennifer Bramley said she expects an offer to slide all-around $8 million dependent on a new appraisal the city will obtain for environmental use.

Dunedin’s eyesight is larger than the 44 acres at the northeast corner of Keene Highway and Virginia Avenue. The northeast part of the house is bordered by a 55-acre freshwater lake, which Douglas marketed to the Southwest Florida H2o Administration District in 1986.

Dunedin commissioners directed team to meet up with with the H2o Administration District to talk about the metropolis having more than routine maintenance of the lake which, put together with the Douglas property, would create a 100-acre mother nature protect in the state’s most densely populated county.

“We have an opportunity of a life time below to flip 44 acres into 100 acres, and generations to arrive in Florida will delight in this long following we are absent,” Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski said.

An aerial map exhibiting the 44-acre Gladys Douglas property with the 55-acre Jerry Lake to the northeast. [ City of Dunedin ]

Douglas for a long time experienced reviewed her need to provide her land to regional federal government for preservation with proceeds likely to regional charities. Immediately after she died at 95 in July 2019, her family restarted conversations with nearby government. But with an appraisal topping $11 million, neither the county nor the town designed an present.

Hightower explained he entered into negotiations with Pulte before this 12 months due to the fact community government had unsuccessful to act and he had an obligation to obtain a inclined consumer and disburse the proceeds to Douglas’s beneficiaries. He mentioned he will be obligated to go that route yet again if regional govt does not appear by in 90 times.

Requested if the estate had a least price it would acknowledge, Hightower explained there are a variety of provisions and contingencies that could bolster a offer. But he stated other developers are currently intrigued, and a bar has been set with Pulte’s former contract price tag.

“We know what the marketplace observed in the price of the property,” Hightower reported. “I do not know why the beneficiaries ought to take a lesser amount for the reason that the metropolis and county would get it. They are a purchaser just like any individual else, in my intellect.”

Immediately after the Tampa Bay Times documented in August that the home was beneath deal to Pulte, citizens and governing administration officers have been rallying to preserve the land.

The property has heightened environmental significance as dwelling to point out-threatened gopher tortoises and the past sand pine rosemary scrub in Pinellas.

Dunedin resident Nichole Mattheus structured a Facebook team with now a lot more than 1,300 associates. They have flooded city and county officials with emails and phone phone calls. Resident Michelle Burnbaum launced weekly signal-waving situations at the home, drawing dozens of activists.

An on-line petition designed by Suncoast Sierra Club urging govt officers to help you save the property has a lot more than 9,600 signatures.

Bramley, the Dunedin town manager, mentioned renowned marine biologist Sylvia Earle, a Countrywide Geographic explorer in residence who lives in Dunedin, has expressed desire in the preservation hard work.

Bramley called the acquisition of 100 acres for conservation an “inter-generational possibility for us.”

But the good results of the effort and hard work will count on county involvement. Pinellas County administrator Barry Burton claimed Monday he options to have further more conversations with Dunedin officials, but the path ahead is not nevertheless apparent.

The county has set aside $15 million to purchase land for preservation in excess of the next 10 yrs. The Douglas home ranked No. 1 on a list of 60 possible purchases, but the county has to contemplate other projects competing for funds, Burton stated.

“I am operating with Dunedin and we will be hopeful that we can do the job with the estate in phrases of finding a way in which to maintain this residence,” Burton reported.

The 44 acres holds threatened gopher tortoises and the previous rosemary scrub in Pinellas. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]

Dunedin’s $2 million contribution is coming from Penny for Pinellas just one-cent gross sales tax revenue that had been committed to setting up a parking garage next to the new City Corridor. The garage will now be a area whole lot.

Bramley explained the city will pursue a Florida Communities Rely on grant that could provide up to 50 per cent of the purchase rate, leaving around $2 million for county or other sources to fork out.

James Scott, chair of the Suncoast Sierra Club, explained he feared a more substantial political battle is forward as spending budget constraints may perhaps dampen the county’s endeavours to locate funding for the offer.

Scott claimed area activists and metropolis officers ought to now amplify their attempts with county commissioners.

“To get the votes to politically make it happen, to locate the funds to have that debate is heading to consider a ton of do the job,” he claimed. “This could be a serious results tale for conservation in Pinellas County. This is a real possibility to have a get but it’s heading to acquire a good deal of function.”