The folks behind
How did commissioners react? Stony silence. They didn't even bother to say thank you. Certainly a community group that brings forward such a rare and hard-won proposal deserves to be thanked for the effort and told it will be given the highest consideration, if nothing else. After all, commissioners, these are your neighbors.
The awkward reaction of commissioners naturally leaves observers wondering whether a group of residents is right when its lawyer accused the city in March of concocting a behind-the-scenes plan to sell the property to "enrich land speculators and developers at the expense of safeguarding conservation and rural lands."
That's when the idea to change the plan for that property suddenly came up publicly. Residents do have a point. This city has done everything it legally can in the past -- and sometimes more -- for developers. It does stretch the imagination to believe that the city was just puttering around the land maps while planning for a fire station and just happened to notice -- oh my gosh! -- a "mapping error," as City Manager
The result was that the city decided to "fix" the mistake by changing the plan for the land -- to dramatically increase its value -- before selling it. Under the old plan, arguably, nothing could be built on the 269 acres that is in 17 different parcels both north and south of
The nature center's offer comes up at Thursday's meeting along with a lame staff report that says little other than the county appraiser's office in the last two weeks increased the value of the property from about
This is what happens when bureaucrats set the agenda. They think in narrow terms and seldom consider the future value of having a large nature preserve in a city. This issue cries out for a leader on the commission.
As Byrant pointed out, the property could serve as a place for a variety of community and nonprofit clubs to meet, including
Partnering with the city, the nature center could build facilities for primitive overnight camping, a venue for events such as eco-weddings and even cool treehouse cabins. The center hopes to partner with
If it had space for a bigger venue,
The center is aware that its relatively small size -- 230 acres -- means
Eustis officials rightly have long supported
The argument that the city should get every nickel it can from this land is shortsighted and foolish. Those who make such an argument will only look guilty of what residents already suspect -- they're in cahoots with developers in a backroom deal. It will look especially stinky because the city ought to be donating the land to
Eustis has a wide variety of surplus properties, but this is the only land located next to
The fact that
Lritchie@tribune.com. Lauren invites you to send her a friend request on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/laurenonlake.
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