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Manatee County accelerates land conservation from 2020 referendum

There are eight properties currently in the acquisition process, but Mixon Fruit Farms is out of the running.

After more than three years, Manatee County is starting to acquire the conservation land it promised voters.

In November 2020, the Conservation and Parks Projects Referendum passed with 71% of the vote. The first property purchased as a result of the referendum, Crooked River Ranch, will close early this year.

The program is funded through a 0.15 millage ad valorem tax and the issuance of up to $50 million in bonds. The goal is to acquire and improve land, protect water resources, preserve wildlife habitats and provide parks.

“I’m not going to pretend that it didn’t take longer than it should have, but we were creating something out of thin air,” Commissioner George Kruse said. “It’s a brand new fund, a brand new millage. We’re just figuring out how it works.”

The tax was estimated to cost under $30 per household and generate $6.7 million annually. While passed in 2020, it took another year for the taxes to be collected.