Log in Subscribe

County Seeking Purchaser for Lena Road "Musgrave" Property


BRADENTON — Manatee County Government has published an Invitation to Negotiate (ITN) for the sale and development of roughly 161 acres of surplused land adjacent to the county landfill off Lena Road, commonly referred to as the “Musgrave Property.”

Originally approved for purchase by the commission in 2020, the then-future plans for the site was to create a central county complex serving multiple public purposes. However, as the 2020 campaigns for four commission seats unfolded, and beyond that year’s election, the land located at 1707 Lena Road in Bradenton was heavily politicized and wielded as a justification to fire a long-time county employee and the former county administrator, Cheri Coryea.

The land, which was previously used for dairy farming, was sold to the county by the Musgrave family for $32.5 million. As part of the county’s planned construction of a “Central County Complex,” the site would be home to future warehouses and maintenance facilities for the Public Works and Utilities Departments, an east-central Sheriff’s Office, a fleet facility, and an evidence storage facility. Being adjacent to the existing landfill, some of the site’s acreage was also identified for a transfer station for purposes of extending the life of the landfill.

Due to its east-central location and intentions to construct a Sheriff’s District Office on the land, county staff believed the location would improve response times to area residents for all the agencies involved.

The purchase was approved after more than a year of negotiations, and county officials at the time noted that the site was the only one of more than 20 properties researched that could accommodate all the county’s future departmental needs and the Sheriff’s facilities.

During the Oct. 2020 BOCC meeting where the purchase was approved, Sheriff Rick Wells told commissioners that the property would benefit his agency. 

“For me, this is just about building something that should’ve been built 10 years ago. We’ve been asked to the prom several times, but we keep getting let down at the very end,” Wells told commissioners at the time.

The commission approved the execution of the land’s purchase in a 5-2 vote with former commissioners Vanessa Baugh and Stephen Jonsson dissenting. The dissenting commissioners cited concerns with the overall purchase price of the land.

2020 - Acreage comp data included in the October 13, 2020, Manatee County Commission meeting agenda packet for item number 58.
2020 - Acreage comp data included in the October 13, 2020, Manatee County Commission meeting agenda packet for item number 58.

But the two former commissioners were not the only voices raising concerns about the purchase of land, at least two current commissioners—who were voted into office in Nov. 2020, roughly a month after the board’s approval to close on the property—also attended meetings to speak out against the purchase.

As reported by the Bradenton Herald, both Commissioners George Kruse and Kevin Van Ostenbridge addressed the commission about the purchase. According to the BH, the two expressed their disapproval of the purchase price, arguing that the county was making “a bad deal.”

“We’re talking about a very high priced parcel of land,” said then-candidate George Kruse. “If Mr. Musgrave is watching this, he’s probably kicking himself because this whole presentation has virtually been about how we have to buy this at any cost.”

“I think if you vote for this, you’re wasting 10s of millions of taxpayer dollars,” added Kevin Van Ostenbridge, who was a candidate for the District 3 seat.

Roughly two weeks after the board’s initial approval, the item was raised again during a BOCC meeting. This time, the board considered a motion to delay the closing. Again, Van Ostenbridge attended the meeting to speak against the purchase, citing the negotiated price. Local developer Pat Neal was also in attendance, and like Van Ostenbridge, he too addressed the board about the expense.

However, during the initial vote to approve on Oct. 13, 2020, Mike Gore, the county’s former Utilities Director and 30-year county employee, argued that the price was a wise investment.

“The price is very fair; when you look at the property around, it will pay huge dividends,” Gore said at the time, pointing out that the purchase was expected to extend the life of the Lena Road Landfill. “It’s going to satisfy three, possibly four departments’ needs going forward. This is a huge win for us as compared to traveling all the way across town.”

Gore’s comments were echoed by a county staff report attached to the item on the meeting's agenda.

In the end, the vote to delay or stall the purchase failed, and the county closed on the property as previously directed by the board “before the end” of 2020.

Following that year’s commission elections, three new commissioners were elected to the board and one was reelected—commissioners James Satcher, Kruse, Van Ostenbridge, and Baugh.

On the heels of the election, newly elected District 3 Commissioner Van Ostenbridge called an emergency meeting on Nov. 19, just two days after the new board was sworn into office. Van Ostenbridge claimed he called for the meeting to discuss the new board’s response to any potential future COVID-19 lockdowns ordered by the newly elected Democratic president—Joe Biden. However, as the meeting unfolded, it became clear that firing then-administrator Coryea was also top of Van Ostenbridge’s agenda. Information later obtained through public record requests seemed to reveal the hidden motive for the emergency meeting.

Notes and transcripts obtained by public record advocate Micheal Barfield indicated that the newly sworn commissioner had requested to meet with Coryea the same morning of the meeting before its convening. The purpose of the pre-meeting, Van Ostenbridge wrote in an email to Coryea, was to discuss the single item on that morning’s agenda and "how things were going so far."

Instead, according to notes recorded of their pre-meeting by Coryea, Van Ostenbridge used the meeting to request Coryea’s resignation. According to Coryea’s notes, he then threatened to deliberately sell off parcels of the Musgrave land at a loss to embarrass her and the previous board.

Though Coryea declined to bend to Van Ostenbridge’s demands, and, according to her notes, reiterated to the new commissioner that she, as county administrator, was tasked with carrying out the will of the board (including closing on the sale of the Musgrave property by the end of year), a messy plan to oust Coryea ultimately came to fruition by early 2021. The action was carried 4-3, with all newly seated commissioners voting in favor, and commissioners Carol Whitmore, Misty Servia, and Reggie Bellamy advocating against the firing.

After the ouster of Coryea, public records further revealed that local developer Carlos Beruff had exchanged text messages with Van Ostenbridge the morning of the Nov. 19 emergency meeting. According to those records, Beruff sent Van Ostenbridge a text message at 6:51 a.m., less than an hour before his  private meeting with Coryea.

“Good morning you all set,” Beruff wrote.

“All set. Meeting with Cheri at 7:30,” Van Ostenbridge replied.

More than a year later at a Sept. 2022 land use meeting, the commission approved then-county administrator Scott Hopes’ suggestion that it “surplus” the Lena Road acreage so that it could be sold. 

Last year, the county published an Invitation to Negotiate (ITN) requesting purchase offers and proposals for all, or portions, of the roughly 161 acres. After multiple extensions, sources told TBT that the ITN garnished at least one offer for the northwest portion of the total land, but negotiations over the purchase ended when the county “walked away” from negotiations.

The most recent ITN, published Jan. 5, is seeking offers for the sale and development of the entire 160.99 acres. The current deadline for proposals is set as Jan. 26, at 3:00 pm.

According to the ITN, proposers must meet the minimum qualification requirements and comply with the requirements outlined in the ITN to receive consideration for the purchase of the land. Selected respondents will be required to indicate what development is being proposed for the site and the required zoning.

Potential restrictions outlined by the county for a proposer’s development of the site include the design, permit and construction of a two-lane public access road running approximately 1,500 feet east-west along the property's northern boundary. The road shall be named “Musgrave Ranch Road.” In addition, other restrictions include that the purchaser shall potentially build a 100,000 to 200,000-square-foot warehouse for county use and install wastewater and potable water facilities to serve their development, the county's potential warehouse, and the Musgrave Real Estate Holdings’ property.

The purchaser shall be responsible for the complete construction and certification of the access road, stormwater, floodplain compensation, wetland mitigation, and utility improvements. The turnover of the access road, stormwater piping, and utility improvements shall also be completed within 12 months of the sale’s closing.

TBT reached former county administrator Cheri Coryea about the county’s continuing efforts to sell off the property. Responding to our request for comment, Coryea responded via email that she “wasn’t surprised” to see an ITN on the property coming up with elections around the corner.

“Commissioner Van Ostenbridge needs to make good on the promise to sell this property for a loss to attempt to embarrass the former board,” Coryea wrote. “The problem with that strategy is that the analysis the county team made in 2020 of demographic trends, cost savings analysis, research for 100-year use, needs for extending the life of the landfill, public safety, law enforcement, public works, and utility services for the tens of thousands of new homes east of I75, has proven to be spot on—the Lena Road property is now at the center of Manatee County.”

Coryea also pointed to the current commission’s approvals for developments that will bring thousands of new homes beyond the Future Development Area Boundary Line (FDAB). “This Commission has pretty much made their own case for the original intended use of the Lena Road Property by extending development beyond the FDAB line," she added. 

Coryea suspects from reading the ITN, that the county may have already identified a purchaser and that “negotiations”  may already be underway, writing, “For a property that has been neglected and lay dormant under the county for three years, the ITN specifications are very specific beyond the original requirements.”

To access the October 13, 2020, BOCC regular meeting agenda packet for item number 58, Execution of Contract for Sale and Purchase for the Central County Complex Project Land Acquisition and Related Improvements, including the executed contract of sale, presentations, and all other item attachments, click here.


7 comments on this item

Only paid subscribers can comment
Please log in to comment by clicking here.

  • WTF

    Well once again you have a department, this time Utilities moving forward with a 30 Million dollar purchase without any input from the commissioners, taxpayers, voters and citizens in general. No workshops, town hall meetings, nothing to inform the public. With little over-site of department heads this will continue. It has been suggested that in the past, dividing the 160 acres into 4 more attractive parcels would bring better offers, the sheriff would get what was promised and a few workforce house developers could move forward with a more manageable size. Did they listen, of course not. Every time an advisory board or citizens makes these great suggestions instead of embracing good sound recommendations the BOCC gets mad because they didn’t think of it. What a shameful act of defiance and a slap in the face to the rest of us. The developers who own the gang of 6 don’t want it and without their developer handlers advising them, they can’t think for themselves on this issue.

    Sunday, January 14 Report this

  • ruthlawler

    This is a very sad and unfortunate situation for the residents of Manatee County. When emergency response times for the new developments in east county have many dire situations due to the distance and traffic that emergency responders must deal with, will our voters finally become aware how valuable that site was for it's intended use as voted by the Commissioners in 2000? It will be interesting to see who the new buyer will be for this parcel, and how it will be utilized. Many of us have strong suspicions about this. As much as I'm grateful for Kruse now having some clarity in true representation of the residents, let us not forget he also voted to oust Cheri Coryea, was in violation of Sunshine laws, voted to have Scott Hopes become the County Administrator, and even praised Hopes on the day Hopes "resigned". Ruth Lawler

    Sunday, January 14 Report this

  • bbenac

    I have no doubt that this is a deal that has already been made with a developer. The purchase of this land for the benefit of the citizens and taxpayers in Manatee County in early 2020 was far sighted-something that this totally bought and purchased BOCC is incapable of accomplishing-planning for the future. This was an extremely well researched and negotiated purchase, with extensive back up information and planning to meet the needs of the growing population. However-it wasn’t what the developers wanted-they wanted to make the deal, like they are on the landfill expansion, road expansions needed for THEIR developments such as 51st (don’t need impact fees yet they are earning HUGE amounts of $ in Impact Fee Credits) this will be just another giveaway to the developers. When will the people of Manatee County realize they are being sold out by a Commission that has broken every law applicable to elected officials. They live in homes owned by developers, drive vehicles bought with tax payer $, and now will run campaigns totally financed by developers, who want to make sure this tax payer piggy bank continues. Meanwhile there is NO Sheriff fleet facility, no plans for an expanded landfill-and they are purchasing incredibly expensive land in town to house the relocated Public Works. WAKE UP VOTERS-this BOCC has destroyed the county’s financials, the Environment (Long Bar Point will soon be a walled off marina), and the taxpayers will be on the hook for the growth past the FDAB.

    Sunday, January 14 Report this

  • David Daniels

    Voters should remember that VanOstenbridge's entire term of office has been one long violation of public record Sunshine laws. He uses his personal cell phone to conduct County business and then claims no records exist when a public record request is submitted. Back in 2020, the County Commission voted 4-3 to make county taxpayers pay his and Satcher's $60K personal legal fees racked up by their unlawful fight to avoid turning over public records on their personal phones. County taxpayers will soon be on the hook again for Manatee County's failure to capture KVO's, Scott Hopes and other administrators county business text messages, despite being fully aware that the law requires it. This failure has allowed VanOstenbridge to continue texting in secret to developer Carlos Beruff, campaign manager Anthony Pedicini, and any other dark money contributors that have, so far, donated over $210K for his reelection so he can continue screwing Manatee County by voting for over-development and against water/environmental protection. Register Now and Vote! There are good candidates running against him.

    Sunday, January 14 Report this

  • Cat L

    I remember this meeting, and how obvious it was that this was the goal. How unconscionable to throw your community under the bus for the sake of being a pawn. It's not only the loss of the ability to both centralize and increase services for mandate county, it's horribly toxic to build residences abutting a landfill. The waste will create a chemical laden zone in the ground called a toxic plume that can shift it's position underground. Unfortunate things happen when that stuff goes into a neighborhood.

    A small percentage of developers are deciding the well-being of their communities, or not. They are setting the tone for how much we are preserving the environment, or rather not... Clearly, only their own benefit is under consideration.

    Monday, January 15 Report this

  • andreart

    Van Ostenbridge told me personally when I questioned him why he was bringing this up when he was running for office. This issue wasn’t in District 3.

    He told me personally that his strategist, Anthony Pedicini told him that they needed to grab on this issue. This issue turned into the Taj Mahal literature being passed out all over the County, this was a result of it. He did what he was told, as all the others did.

    Now they have to eat crow because it’s needed desperately for the growth that was projected out east, and now has grown with the new projects east of the FDAB line. Reason why no one has bid on it is because the unreasonable expectations they are expecting now, including taking care of some of the infrastructure for growth out east, duh.


    Monday, January 15 Report this

  • misty

    Either stand up against corruption or you are supporting it. The hijacking of this purchase was CORRUPT.

    Monday, January 15 Report this