Appraisals give hope to plan for parks land

Lower costs may lend more support for a proposal that would bring a park to Branchton.

Published November 6, 2005

BRANCHTON - A package of parks plans in New Tampa, which had snagged on the rising price of land, may become unsnagged Tuesday.

New appraisals that were completed Thursday showed that 13.4 acres that the county proposes to add to a community park in Branchton are worth $2,660,000. County staffers have negotiated deals to buy the property for $3,097,100.

At least one county commissioner who voted against those deals last month said the fresh appraisals could turn him around. The proposal died in October on a 3-3 vote, partly because an appraisal from May had valued the land at $100,000 an acre. Last week's appraisal pegs it at $198,500 an acre. The negotiated price is $231,100 an acre.

"I'm more inclined to support the sale of the property," Commissioner Tom Scott said. "The new appraisal substantially validates the rise in the property value."

Mike Kelly, director of the county's real estate department, said he would submit the deal to commissioners, along with the new appraisals, in a Tuesday meeting.

"What the new appraisals show is that land prices out there are escalating rapidly," Kelly said.

Since Cross Creek Boulevard was extended to Morris Bridge Road four years ago, New Tampa's suburbia has been spreading Branchton's way.

So the Branchton acreage emerged as the linchpin of a larger New Tampa recreation package proposed last April by a community recreation task force.

The group urged the county to buy property for ballparks in Branchton and one of the large housing developments under construction. In September, commissioners voted to buy 79 acres in Live Oak Preserve for $2.3-million. Of those, 43 acres are dry enough to develop into ballfields.

The task force also recommended that 70 acres off Morris Bridge, which the county bought last year for $3.5-million, become an environmental preserve. But county leaders balked at that, because they had bought the land for active sports, not nature trails.

Kelly said approval of the Branchton purchases on Tuesday would clear the path for the preservation of the Morris Bridge property.

All three initiatives - the Branchton purchases, the Live Oak purchase, and the Morris Bridge preservation - are to be discussed in a public meeting Monday night in New Tampa. The meeting is set for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Hunter's Green Elementary School cafeteria, 9202 Highland Oak Drive.

- Bill Coats can be reached at 813 269-5309 or coats@sptimes.com