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Land free for the asking

Believe it or not, there are 6 acres of land on a major road in the center of Pinellas, the state's most densely populated county, that nobody wants. Barnett Bank, which owns the land, has tried unsuccessfully to give it to the county, the cities of Clearwater and Largo, the Department of Environmental Regulation, the Southwest Florida Water Management District and the state Department of Transportation (DOT).

Except for the DOT, which still is considering the offer, all have said "no thanks."

The land is south of a Barnett Bank at 1610 S Missouri Ave. It is slightly swampy, and apparently it is unsuitable for building.

Noel Corson, with George F. Young Inc. of St. Petersburg, has been coordinating the bank's efforts to dispose of the land.

"Would you like it?" Corson asked a St. Petersburg Times reporter. "If you're quick you can get it for nothing."

Corson said nothing can be built on the land. "But you can plant trees there," he said. "That would be nice."

But not nice enough for Largo to take it off the bank's hands.

"We would have to maintain it," said City Attorney Gerald McClelland. "It would have to have a pleasing appearance. And it wouldn't do us any good," he said, because the land is in Clearwater.

Corson said he fared no better when he approached the county and the city of Clearwater.

"Basically, they said, "Thank you very much, but we've got enough swamps already,"' Corson said.

Ream Wilson, director of Clearwater's Parks and Recreation Department, said that even though the land is within city limits, "no Clearwater residents live anywhere near it."

"It's nearer to Largo residents," Wilson said.

Ray Rayburn, an engineering supervisor with the county, said, "We don't want to burden our people with it. Land like that is quite costly to maintain."

Corson said the property is not as bad as it seems.

"Actually," Corson said, "it's one of the highest wetlands in the county."