Review cycles established, new Property Management Division chief reports, to ensure unneeded land is not retained
Since May 18, Sarasota County staff has whittled down the number of county-owned parcels from 1,126 to 1,120, with 193 ready to be sold because they are not needed in any capacity, as verified through a months-long, intensive review involving each department.
That was the news Hayley A. Baldinelli, the new manager of the county’s Property Management Division, reported to the County Commission on Nov. 27.
Among changes County Administrator Jonathan Lewis has implemented this fiscal year, the former Real Estate Services office was renamed and made part of the county’s Planning and Development Services Department. The director of that department, Matt Osterhoudt, introduced Baldinelli to the commission this week.
Since Nov. 30, 2017, the board renewed pressure on administrative staff to put on the market any property that could be sold. The goal was to strengthen the county’s finances. Even then, the commissioners had to make a number of recurring budget cuts to ensure the county would not be facing deficits in the current fiscal year — which began Oct. 1. The board members had chosen not to raise property taxes for the 2018 fiscal year, and they maintained the same overall millage rate this year for the county.
Earlier this month, as part of their Consent Agenda of routine business items, Baldinelli noted on Nov. 27, the commissioners voted unanimously to sell two more surplus parcels. One, located at 200 Montana Ave. in Nokomis, was approved for purchase by Juergen Stahl for $100,000. The other, on Orange Grove Avenue in Nokomis, was approved for sale to Julie Peachy-Trimpe for $11,000.
A Nov. 7 staff memo said the Orange Grove Avenue land was obtained following a foreclosure in 2008. The county was owed $12,116.87 “as a result of unpaid code enforcement liens,” the memo explained. When the property was offered for public sale in 2009, the memo continued, the county bought it for $100.
The Montana Avenue parcel previously was the location of the Sorrento Utilities water treatment plant, a separate Nov. 7 memo said. The county bought the property in June 1988 for $74,068.82, with the treatment plant still on-site, the memo noted. That plant later was demolished.
When county staff marketed the property early this year for $130,000, the memo continued, no bids met the minimum. Subsequently, the price was lowered to $95,000, with no bids received, and then $85,000, the memo said. Three offers met that $85,000 minimum.
Altogether, Baldinelli told the board on Nov. 27, county staff has sold four properties since the beginning of May, and another eight parcels have been declared surplus. During the commission’s regular meeting on Dec. 11, she added, the board will have the opportunity to put another six parcels on the surplus list.
Moreover, Baldinelli said, on Dec. 11, staff will ask the commission to approve a contract with a vendor to help expedite the sale of county surplus lands. If the board agrees to the contract, she continued, then the vendor and staff will work to prepare properties for the market.
In the meantime, Baldinelli pointed out, staff is continuing its research and evaluation of other parcels that potentially could be sold. A review cycle has been developed for all county properties, she noted, “making sure that this is an ongoing effort.”
Commissioner Charles Hines welcomed Baldinelli to the county and thanked her “for taking this task on. It’s something that’s been long overdue.”
A review of county parcels began before former County Administrator Tom Harmer left in December 2017 to become manager of the Town of Longboat Key. However, at the commission’s direction, County Administrator Jonathan Lewis put more focus on the project, because of county budget concerns.
More than five years ago, commissioners — especially Joe Barbetta — called for a concerted staff effort to identify surplus parcels to get them back on the county tax rolls.
“This needs to be a constant, active ongoing review,” Hines told Baldinelli on Nov. 27. Like Barbetta, Hines referenced the importance of property tax income from parcels the county no longer needs.
Hines also pointed out, “If they’re ours, we have a duty to maintain them.” Yet, he said, “Some of ’em, we neverhave any intent to use,” even if — like the Montana Avenue property — they do not carry a high value.
Board members do hear complaints from the public about lack of upkeep from time to time, he indicated.