NEW PORT RICHEY — Commissioners on Tuesday agreed to buy 109 acres in Holiday that could be used for a future nature park.
The tract, next to Anclote Gulf Park and Key Vista Nature Park, would help create a chain of green space in the southwest corner of Pasco County.
"It's part of the puzzle out there," said Commissioner Ann Hildebrand. "I call that whole area the scenic cruise of west Pasco County."
The property is located off Baillie's Bluff Road and is already surrounded by county-owned land. The $2.4 million purchase price comes from Penny for Pasco sales tax funds dedicated to environmental land acquisition.
The sale is contingent on an environmental study expected to be conducted over the next few weeks. There is an old cattle dipping vat near the site from the 1930s that could contain dangerous chemicals, officials said.
The vat is located on property already owned by the county, though officials are unsure whether the contamination plume extends onto the proposed purchase site.
The county added a clause to a contract with owner Ryland Homes saying if the environmental study shows that the plume is too large, the county could back out of the purchase.
"If the report comes in bad … we don't close on the deal," said County Administrator John Gallagher.
Once samples are taken at the vat location, officials would fence off the contaminated area and spread a layer of topsoil to prevent people from coming in contact with any contaminants. The county could also excavate the area and do a full cleanup, but officials said that could be too costly.
There was also concern over the purchase price. One appraisal listed the property at $2.1 million and a second appraisal put the value at $2.7 million.
A small piece of the property was designated as county right of way under an agreement from 1911. The county made an offer that would have lowered the purchase price by roughly $30,000 to account for that, but Ryland refused.
"This is a gem of a piece of property," said Commissioner Pat Mulieri. "I'd hate to lose this (over that issue)."
Clarke Hobby, a lawyer representing Ryland, said the company paid $14.5 million for the property and thinks the county "is getting a steal."
The vote to approve the sale was 4-1, with Commissioner Jack Mariano dissenting over concerns about the cattle vat.