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Environment Robinson Preserve Phase II Expansion Moves Forward


BRADENTON -- County Commissioners approved moving forward, at Tuesday's BOCC meeting, to get the Robinson Preserve Phase II Expansion on the map. The 150 additional acres that make up Phase II are expected to add wetlands, uplands and coastal habitat areas. The preservation of the additional acres will aid in protecting the ecological integrity of the coastal area in the region. The BOCC added a caveat to the approval: preserve the Robinson name as well.

Robinson Preserve was purchased by the county from the Robinson family in 2002 for $10 million. Since then, with additional grants and county funds, Manatee County has invested an additional $11 million to establish environmental restoration that prides with habitat conservation and recreational amenities.

The Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast has partnered up with Manatee County to insure Robinson Preserve as one of the finest in the nation. The group will form a consortium of investors that will finance the transition. Of a 200-acre parcel, there will be 150 acres added to the original preserve with 50 acres left available for limited development. The original language of the proposal called for leaving no restrictions on the remaining 50 acres. The entire 200-acre parcel previously had been limited to a maximum of 20 units for development.

Commissioner Joe McClash, long the board's loudest smart-growth voice, raised objections to the vague nature of the proposal, saying that if left, someone could have theoretically tried to put dense affordable-housing style units on the land, pointing out that the limitation on development was a thing of value that the county owned. It was agreed that any future development on the remaining 50 acres would be capped at 50 units, which is what the owners had originally wanted once it became clear that a previously-planned golf course on the rest of it, was not commercially viable. McClash noted that the density was not an entitlement and that such growth would have to come back before them through the development plan process.

There was tension before agreeing to move forward. Some of the commissioners insisted the name stay the same, while others argued that some of the would-be investors might want naming rights somewhere on the property, and many felt that there existed a likelihood of the Mosaic Company (phosphate mining) being one of those.

Sanda Ripberger, representing Sierra Club Sarasota/Manatee, showed up to make it clear how they felt about having Mosaic at the park. Others spoke too, and most conveyed feelings that Mosaic was a bad choice. Commissioners McClash, DiSabatino, Gallen and Whitmore made it clear that the name needed to remain the same.

The conceptual plan for the site will focus on quality habitat and biological diversity. The county is hoping that with public involvement will create citizen stakeholders that will continue for generations to come.    


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