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Schools ask to block the Sunshine for land deals

By Wire services
Published January 26, 2004

MELBOURNE - Some public school officials want an exemption from Florida's open government Sunshine Law to allow districts to negotiate property deals in secret, saying land owners hike prices when they hear school districts are property hunting.

Secret negotiations would prevent property owners from boosting the cost of the increasingly scarce land that meets schools' needs, said Wayne Blanton, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association, an independent research organization that reports to the state Legislature.

"I know of instances where property value has jumped overnight," Blanton said. "We've seen it time and time again."

Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation, a Tallahassee-based group that monitors open records laws, said the state should not allow secret negotiations.

"Where schools are built (is) an issue of critical public importance," she said. "People who live in the county have a right to know from the beginning."

[Last modified January 26, 2004, 01:00:43]

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