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Grants roll in but land for park hard to pin

Two grants would help Largo buy land next to the Bayside Bridge, but the property is already under contract.

By SHANNON TAN
Published May 30, 2005


LARGO - The city has gotten two grants totaling $1.05-million to help purchase property next to the Bayside Bridge for a park.

One problem: a local developer has a contract to purchase the property to build single-family homes.

When officials learned last week that the city had gotten the grants, they contacted property owners John Ruggles and Tony Johannesmeyer.

The developer could still decide not to purchase the property, said Steve Ross, assistant to the city manager. "We asked them to keep us in mind," he said.

Even if the contract falls through, Johannesmeyer said, that doesn't mean the city is guaranteed the property. It depends on how much the city can pay, he said. A year ago, the asking price was $1.5-million.

But earlier this month Ruggles said the property is now worth up to $2.5-million because of soaring property values.

He declined to name the developer.

The city, which has been aggressively annexing property east of U.S. 19, is seeking land to be used as a park. The 20.5 acres west of the Bayside Bridge could be used for recreation and coastal and mangrove restoration.

Half the property is under water. Mangroves and Australian pines line the other half. That is about 660 feet of waterfront property, Ruggles said.

City officials applied for a $850,000 grant from the Florida Communities Trust, Florida Forever program, and a $200,000 grant through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Land and Water Conservation Fund program.

Pinellas County owns more than 10 acres adjacent to the property, which means the city could work with the county on a larger park or negotiate a land swap.

--Shannon Tan can be reached at shtan@sptimes.com or 445-4174.

[Last modified May 30, 2005, 01:38:11]


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