Waterfront Park Acquisition (Buchanan Property)
June 24, 2013
The property which was split among family members, was acquired by one family member in a holding company and is now one single property. The holding company is no longer concerned with wanting to see the property become a park and is seeking higher bids
The Trust for Public Land (TPL) has approved the waterfront park as an initiative it has undertaken. TPL is an excellent advocate/partner for us to have supporting this initiative! In the past couple months TPL has made offers to put the land under contract and to-date an acceptable price has not been agreed to by the parties. Updating of the appraisal in the next couple months is a likely next step.
Buchanan Property History
* In February 2011 the Buchanan heirs met with County Commissioner Susan Latvala and expressed willingness to sell their land to become a Waterfront Park for Ozona. The county has no funding available at this time for acquisition of real estate. Commissioner Latvala recommended that Mr. Sutton contact representatives of the Ozona community. If the Buchanan tract can be obtained through a grass roots fundraising effort the County would help to handle the final contract negotiation and would transfer the land into County Park jurisdiction for care in perpetuity.
* The Buchanan property has long been visualized as a potential site for a passive waterfront park, and Ms. Buchanan was aware of this desire on the part of Ozona residents. The Buchanan tract is directly adjacent to Speckled Trout marina which has been a public boat ramp for as long as anyone can remember. The Ozona waterfront has historically been the site of intensive commercial and recreational fishing activities. The history of the Ozona community is integrally tied to access to the water and to the commercial enterprise supportive of fisherman. The Buchanan tract had a boat and bait shop for the years when Mr. and Mrs. Buchanan were working. The Buchanan property holds the predisposing riparian rights to the waterfront.
* In 1976 existing public access to the Ozona waterfront was lost when Bayshore Drive (between Bay Street and Pennsylvania Ave.) was closed by property owners with the blessing of the sitting County Commission. This was done in spite of widespread objection and a lawsuit supported by Ozona residents. A passive park on the waterfront would be returning to the public domain a "birthright" of Ozona.
* The existing Ozona Preserve (designated in 1997) has grown to include 8.1 acres. This land area is tiny by relative comparison to other environmentally “managed” land in the county park system, but is crucially important as a wildlife and plant sanctuary in the heart of a nearly built out neighborhood. The Ozona Preserve is not suitable as a community gathering place as it is a designated preservation area.
*Present day Ozona demonstrates a development pattern with diverse homes representative of every decade from 1880 to 2010. Throughout the oldest areas of the community commercial, industrial and residential usage exist side by side. Open spaces where residents once gathered for outdoor events or where children could play have now been developed. Having a passive park area where we can take our children or grandchildren to play and where we can gather to watch the sunset with our neighbors and visitors would greatly enhance our community.
A petition of support drive held in the fall 2011 resulted in 530 signatures. The subcommittee will presented the results of the drive to Pinellas County authorities showing local support for the acquisiton of the property as a passive neighborhood park. Please join us to help procure a park where neighbors can meet off road to watch the sunsets, where we have room for outdoor community events, and that will allow our children a place at water's edge where we can continue Ozona's heritage as a close knit community tied to the sea. . If you are interested in signing the petition, please contact Dave Ennis, the subcommittee chair.
July 2012: - John Garrison of the St. Petersburg office for the Trust for Public Land (TPL) received approval from his national board to negotiate on behalf of the community for this property - it would be their intent to define an agreement with the property owner for several months( to be determined in negotiation) to allow for due diligence of the property and to seek out funding for the property - so at this point we do not have funding but we do have a major national entity with considerable experience engaged - the next step will be if an agreement can be reached between TPL and the property owners to have this public acquisition considered