Friends of The Legacy Trail estimates total users this year to close in on 200,000 mark
Thanks to a unanimous vote on Dec. 12, the Sarasota County Commission’s plan to create the North Extension of The Legacy Trail cleared another hurdle.
As part of its Consent Agenda of routine business items, the board approved an addendum to its contract with the Trust for Public Land that dealt with a couple of last-minute issues county staff had discovered, according to a memo provided to the board in advance of the Dec. 12 meeting.
The county is set to close on Dec. 20 on the first segment of property it needs for the North Extension — from Culverhouse Park to Ashton Road; the county will pay $7.9 million for the land.
In November 2018, the County Commission plans a referendum to determine whether voters will approve the purchase price of the remaining section of North Extension property. That segment would run to Fruitville Road. The referendum also will cover an estimated $35 million to $40 million in improvements to transform the property for bike and pedestrian use.
If voters approve the referendum, the county is to conclude another transaction with the Trust for Public Land on May 30, 2019.
The Trust, which is a nonprofit based in Tallahassee, acquired all of that rail corridor from CSX. The Trust also had to negotiate with CSX’s lessee, Seminole Gulf Railway.
During the commission’s Dec. 8 retreat, Roger Normand, a member of the Board of Directors of the Friends of The Legacy Trail, reported that the nonprofit expects the total number of uses of the Trail to come close to the 200,000 mark by the end of this year, up from 175,000 in 2016.
The Friends of The Legacy Trail is working with a prominent local marketing agency on strategies to win public support for the referendum, he said, and it has begun expanding members’ appearances at all the farmers markets in the county, in an effort to spread the word about the plans for the North Extension.
In regard to the Dec. 12 vote: A memo provided to the commission said that as county staff “conducted the necessary due diligence inspections of the land to be acquired” for the North Extension, it obtained a survey “as well as a title commitment.” From those documents, staff learned that the land the county is buying in December is detailed in two separate legal descriptions. One focuses on the main rail line, the memo said, while the other pertains to “the spur parcel.”
The contract with the Trust also required that a “Notice of Exempt Abandonment” be filed with the Surface Transportation Board, the memo continued. After the board received that document, the memo indicated, “it was brought to Staff’s attention that the spur parcel was not included in the abandonment filing.” As a result, the memo said, staff negotiated with the Trust to amend the contract “to more specifically describe the lands to be acquired and also to remove some of the use restrictions set forth in the Contract as they apply to the spur parcel.”
The addendum makes clear that the spur will not be used for any type of residential purpose or accommodations — such as a hotel or camping sites. That stipulation also is a facet of the agreement regarding the main parcel, according to the documents provided to the County Commission.
Both pieces of property historically have been used for “railroad industrial operations” and are being conveyed to the county “for use only for industrial, commercial, or non-residential property,” the contract points out.
Furthermore, the contract makes it plain that no public or private schools, daycare operations or public parks may be erected on the main parcel or the spur, nor will any agricultural purpose be permitted, including the raising of livestock. Additionally, the property may not be used for the establishment of a “mitigation bank” or mitigation credits, and the groundwater beneath the land may not be used for “human consumption, irrigation, or other purposes.”
The contract does call for any temporary or permanent signage on the parcels to recognize the role of both the county and the Trust for Public Land, “in conserving the Property.”