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Low price may let St. Pete Beach make waterfront purchase

ST. PETE BEACH — The city is considering purchasing a million-dollar waterfront property on the Intracoastal Waterway east of Blind Pass Road.

No decision has been made yet nor is financing assured.

If the City Commission does decide to purchase the three-quarter-acre property, located at 9001 Blind Pass Road, it would join a similarly sized, abutting city-owned property to square off a municipal complex that currently includes Egan Park.

"We have looked at this property for some time, but it was just too expensive. Now, it appears to be a really good opportunity," City Manager Mike Bonfield said.

Several years ago, the property, which includes a single-family home built in 1970 and a boat dock, was valued at about $3-million, Bonfield said. Today, according to a recent appraisal performed for the city, the property is worth about $1-million.

According to the Pinellas County property appraiser, the property is assessed at $635,077 and generates $11,324 in combined city and county property taxes. The just market value is listed as $973,300 and comparable sale value at $1.17 million.

The city did consider purchasing the property two years ago, but abandoned the project because of the cost. Last month, the City Commission gave Bonfield the go-ahead to re-investigate purchasing the property.

Last week, Bonfield contacted the Trust for Public Land to ask the organization to negotiate the purchase and potentially acquire and hold the property to give the city time to seek grant money to cover the purchase price.

If the TPL has available funds to purchase the property for the city, the commission must first make a formal decision to authorize the TPL to acquire the property.

That does involve a gamble, Bonfield admitted, since such an authorization would obligate the city to purchase the property whether or not it is later successful in getting a state or federal grant.

"Obviously, the city does not have a lot of cash, but the trust would give us about two years to find a grant to cover the purchase," he said.

If the city does buy the property, Bonfield said it might become an alternate site for an existing boat ramp, now located on the north side of Egan Park. He said the boat ramp is adjacent to a condominium complex, which has created "some problems" with residents there.

If the boat ramp is moved to the new site, there would be more room for parking. The city also would have enough room to install a filtering system for storm water that now dumps unfiltered into the bay, Bonfield said.

The TPL is a national, nonprofit, land conservation organization that helps communities preserve potential park, community garden, and historic sites. Since 1975, the TPL has protected over 200,000 acres in Florida at a market value of more than $600 million.

One of those TPL projects involved working with the city of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County in 2006 to extend the Pinellas Trail to downtown St. Petersburg by acquiring a 2-mile rail corridor from CSX Transportation.

The TPL also helped Treasure Island in 2000 by helping the city purchase three beachfront parcels to create Sunset Pavilion Trailhead, a 1.6-acre park.

Bonfield said it will be at least a week before the TPL decides whether it has enough money to purchase the property for the city.

Low price may let St. Pete Beach make waterfront purchase 06/09/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 9, 2009 5:35pm]
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