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County to consider trading back land

Two brothers who bartered away a parcel of land to Hillsborough County more than a decade ago have proposed another swap to get the land back. Prominent Hillsborough landowners Roy Geraci Jr. and Peter Geraci have asked the county to trade an 11.5-acre former sewage plant site on Lutz-Lake Fern Road for 12.5 acres they own about half a mile away.

County real estate officials say the deal is fine, but at least one county commissioner has some reservations.

The county obtained most of the 11.5-acre tract in 1976 from the Geracis to make room for a sewage treatment plant. In exchange, the county promised the Geracis free sewer hookups.

But now the sewer plant is shut down, and the Geracis want the land back because it is next to about 2,200 additional acres they own, said attorney Maria Maistrellis, who represents the Geracis. They have no immediate plans for the land, which extends into Pasco County.

"They just would like to get the land back so when they do have plans, they will have the contiguous parcel," Maistrellis said.

The County Commission must approve the swap. Dick Sargent, director of the county's real estate department, said the deal benefits the county.

The Geracis have agreed to pay the costs of dismantling the former sewage treatment plant on the county land, Sargent said, something the county might have to do otherwise.

"We're getting more land, and it's located in a better position," Sargent said.

The land the county would get is about a half-mile east of the land it now owns, closer to N Dale Mabry Highway.

It's also worth more. The 11.5-acre county site has been appraised at $172,500. The site the Geracis own has been appraised at $187,500, records show.

But one county commissioner has problems with the exchange.

"For all we know, we might get a better proposal from someone else if we made the public aware of the fact that the county was interested in parting with the land," said Commissioner Jan Platt.

"One party is dealing with the county at this point. I don't think that's good public policy," Platt said.

Sargent said a property exchange such as the one proposed by the Geracis is not unusual. State law allows land exchanges, and two or three take place in Hillsborough every year, he said.

If the Geracis hadn't come forward with their offer, the county would have sold the land or used it for another county facility, Sargent said. He said some county departments expressed interest in the site, but the trade still would make land available in the area for the county's use.

The Geracis asked last week for a delay in the commission's decision to have the county's land tested for environmental problems. Sargent said the Geracis have given the county an environmental assessment of their site.

Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the exchange at their Wednesday meeting.