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Rattlesnake Key owners put property on the market as state/county purchase deal drags


MANATEE COUNTY — Rattlesnake Key, a 671-acre island in Manatee County just north of Emerson Point, has been put on the market. Unless the state and county purchase the barrier island, a representative of its ownership group says it would become part of a larger parcel of properties that could be developed for residential use, a hotel/resort with marinas, or even a casino.

The Florida Legislature budgeted $23 million for the purchase of the island in 2022, with Manatee County set to contribute an additional $3 million. The intent was to make the island a state park. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection then commissioned an appraisal that came in at only $7 million, and the deal stalled.

A representative for the Tampa Bay Real Estate Investment Corp., an undisclosed ownership group that owns Rattlesnake Key and some surrounding properties, told the Tampa Bay Times that the appraisal did not consider that the island has 30 acres of upland or that the entire island sits above the mean high tide line, protecting it from storm surges.

The property listing includes Rattlesnake Key, 64 acres comprised of Paradise Island and Skeet Key, a 5.6-acre parcel on Ed’s Key, 1.79 acres of Little Bird Key, and just under 38 acres of Terra Ceia Island. Knott-Cowen, a mainland property that straddles the Sunshine Skyway, is listed at 271 acres, 176 of which are submerged land. In total, the listing is for 1,000 undeveloped acres, most of which are wetlands, with around 200 acres that are said to be developable.

The listing for the parcel package is $75 million. However, according to the Tampa Bay Times article, Rattlesnake Key is still available to the state and county for $25 million, although the earmarked state funding expires on June 30.


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  • sandy

    Twelve years or so ago, there was a proposed resort, Skyway Resort. Never got to the actual planning process but contacted the county with a conceptual development plan. Hotel, residential, commercial, bungalows over water. This was before it was proposed that the state would buy it. Could still happen if sold to a developer.

    Friday, April 26 Report this

  • sandy

    Further, Rattlesnake Key and surrounding keys fall within what is part of the Coastal Barrier Resources System. Coastal barriers serve as important buffers between coastal storms and inland areas, often protecting properties on land from serious flood damage. Also, coastal barriers provide a protective habitat for aquatic plants and animals. These areas are mapped by the Dept. of the Interior/Fish & Wildlife Services and approved by Congress. Any change to these maps must be approved by Congress. Federal funding (federally backed or federally insured mortgages) is prohibited for new construction, allowing for federal expenditures for projects such as environmental studies, for example. National flood insurance is not available for new construction in these areas. Areas within the CBRS may be developed, provided that private developers or other non-federal parties bear the full cost and risk.

    Saturday, April 27 Report this

  • Sari4manatee

    It's frankly alarming that Rattlesnake Key, a critical ecological and cultural asset, is at risk of being developed due to the stalling tactics of our current county commission. This barrier island, along with its surrounding keys, serves as a vital protective barrier against coastal storms and provides crucial habitat for diverse wildlife. The potential loss of this land to development, whether for residential use or a resort, is not just unfortunate—it's unacceptable.

    The Florida Legislature and Manatee County have already set aside significant funds to purchase this land, recognizing its value for future generations as a state park. The stalling over appraisals and funding deadlines is a disservice to all of us who value our natural environment and the long-term resilience of our county. It’s crucial that we raise our voices now to ensure this purchase goes through.

    We need to hold our county commissioners accountable and press them to finalize this deal before the earmarked state funding expires. The conservation of Rattlesnake Key is not just about preventing development; it's about actively choosing to invest in our community's future, protecting our land from the increasing threats of climate change, and preserving the natural beauty that defines our region.

    It’s time for action. We cannot allow short-sighted delays to compromise our environment and our heritage. Let’s make sure our leaders follow through on their commitments and complete the purchase of Rattlesnake Key. Our community—and future generations—deserve nothing less.

    Sunday, April 28 Report this

  • mastroieni

    As a retired commercial real estate appraiser, I have to say that paying more than $800,000 per acre for 30 acres of “land” that has no infrastructure and is inaccessible by anything that draws more than a kayak (and perhaps not then) seems a little steep. I understand that the property makes a potentially significant environmental contribution, and environmental value is not measured in a typical real estate appraisal. But please let us not make the mistake of thinking of Rattlesnake Key as a development site. Even assuming that Manatee County would allow a developer to cut roads and utilities through a thousand acres of protected mangrove wetlands, it would never be economically feasible. A hotel and casino in the middle of a swamp? Not going to happen. The county should not bow to the owner's scare tactics to pay an exorbitant price for a property that will never be developed and will continue to provide the same environmental benefits no matter who owns it.

    Sunday, April 28 Report this

  • sandy

    No developer will spend their money to build or insure without some financing. Federally funded or insured loans or mortgages are not allowed for a property in part of the Coastal Barrier Resources System. National flood insurance is not allowed in this area. Not too many individual citizens would be able to pay cash for a residence and pay for private flood insurance. It would be extremely expensive for a developer to build there using their own money.

    Sunday, April 28 Report this

  • nellmcphillips

    The folks who own this property pull this crap on a regular basis and have lost their case to build more than once. To say it has valuable uplands and is suitable for development is a pipe dream. That said this type of project moving forward is unfortunately acceptable by our current County Commissioners and our illustrious DEP which would permit anything without proper review. The area proposed for development is part of Terra Ceia aquatic preserve. It also supports federally and state listed species including, the sawtooth, manatee, sea turtles, black finned sharks, and other important aquatic life. unfortunately Manatee County recent history has shown no respect for science, wetlands, and mangrove ecosystems or anything in our local natural environments. With the exception of the proposed purchase of this important aquatic preserve. How about the historic and archeological sites that are in the proposed area that is important to Native culture and our maritime history. Let’s talk sustainability as these areas flood quite often. To say the “upland” areas are suitable for building in light of rising sea levels and climate change is ludicrous. It stinks of a PR ploy that the landowners launch every few years to drive up what they think is the appraised value. I don’t know who their appraiser is but that person has been smoking too much weed. The State and County put forward an offer based on good faith and the values that are only mostly known by locals, professionals, and the fish and wildlife supported by this area. The Article published by the Tampa Bay Times was a biased article and the writer should be ashamed of themselves.

    Sunday, April 28 Report this