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County Agrees to Donate Land to New College, Despite Having Promised it to USF


BRADENTON — At Tuesday's Manatee County Commission meeting, commissioners unanimously approved an agreement to convey approximately nine acres of county-owned property on the site of the Powel Crosley Estate to New College of Florida after previously agreeing to give the property to USF-Sarasota/Manatee.

The Powel Crosley Estate was the winter home of Powel Crosley Jr. (1886-1961), an entrepreneur who owned the Cincinnati Reds and was dubbed "The Henry Ford of Radio." He built it to aid his wife, who suffered from tuberculosis. His main residence in Cincinnati, Pinecroft, is also a famed American estate.

Manatee County acquired the 16.5-acre estate in 1991 and, in 2020, donated the same nine acres to USF, whose Sarasota-Manatee campus is adjacent to the property. The school had planned to build student housing on the parcel. The meeting included only a very brief staff presentation that made a vague reference to the fact that negotiations "fell apart" this summer.

New College is in the midst of being "revamped," so to speak, following Governor Ron DeSantis targeting the state's liberal arts honors college in his "war on woke," stacking its board with right-wing politicians who quickly dispatched the school's president before voting to hire former Florida Speaker of the House and close DeSantis ally Richard Corcoran.

The changes have angered many students and faculty members, with a considerable number of both choosing to part ways with the institution. The most immediate change was the school adding intercollegiate athletics earlier this year, recruiting more than 150 scholar-athletes to field six varsity sports teams for the 2023-2024 school year with additional sports planned for 2024-2025.

In terms of expansion, the school faces the dual challenges of needing to expand its student housing inventory, while it is also uncertain as to whether land east of U.S. 41 that it currently leases from the SRQ Airport Authority will be available 33 years from now when the lease expires.

There is also the matter of the politics involved. Not only does Corcoran wield considerable influence in Republican circles, but the New College board of trustees' attorney is Bradenton's Bill Galvano, who served as President of the Florida Senate. The SRQ Airport Authority board includes the likes of developer Carlos Beruff and his close ally Bob Spencer.

Given the connections between all of those players and some members of the Manatee County Commission, there would seem to be enough to warrant a closer look, especially given the way the county delivered the cold shoulder to USF. The board's vote on Tuesday approved the agreed-upon terms in a resolution, however, the final contract will have to come back before the county commission at a future date.

Beruff Appointed to Citizens

Despite losing his final appeal after he was found to have committed ethics violations while serving on the board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, Beruff was reappointed to another major board this month.

On October 5, the Florida Commission on Ethics notified DeSantis that Beruff had lost his appeal, reiterating its recommendation that he be fined, officially reprimanded and publicly censured. That was just one day after the governor—to whom Beruff and his wife each gave the maximum allowable $6,600 presidential campaign donation—appointed Beruff to another term on the Board of Governors to Citizens Insurance, the state's insurer of last resort.

Beruff will host a fundraiser for DeSantis on Oct. 18 with admission ranging from $1,500 to $11,600. Galvano and developer Pat Neal are listed as members of the "host committee."


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  • Cat L

    At this point, my question on that invite is "who is it that doesn't know that the governor's presidential race is already over?" But I'm sure they'll humor him and get their favors while they can.

    Sunday, October 15, 2023 Report this

  • rayfusco68

    There was a time that I had respect for Bill Galvano. It is sad that he has fallen prey and allowed his name to be associated with these corrupt individuals. Politics can create strange bedfellows and you can lose your integrity by association.

    Sunday, October 15, 2023 Report this

  • san.gander

    Could proof of the Manatee County Board of Commissioners Politcal corruption be any plainer? They dishonor their oaths... It is plain, they are currying favor with Governer DeSantis. They killed the idea of giving the property promised to USF. That property ajoins the current USF campus; and would greatly enhance it's growth. The proposed use for the land, would provide resident housing for USF students opening the door for local area students to chose education at one of Florida's top 4 yr schools - a school with a large variety of disciplines.

    New College has dorms... yes, sadly deteriorated and neglected by poor state funding leading to the conditon they are in now - and they are in Sarasota County! Let the Sarasota County Commissioners donate land for new dorms... ingratiate themselves with DeSantis.

    Sunday, October 15, 2023 Report this

  • WTF

    I have followed this transaction from day one. USF was given the golden goose. Their procrastination for years benefiting no one any good including the high demand for student housing was never started. I was at meeting and USF stated they were not happy with the contract. When the County is giving you millions of dollars of free land and you’re not happy with it speaks volumes to this taxpayer. Say what you want, left to private developments the much needed student housing would have already been built. Educational facilities should not be in the housing business, leave that to professionals. They blew it, plain and simple. SERVITAS and others come to mind https://servitas.com/student-housing-property-management/

    Wednesday, October 18, 2023 Report this