On July 28, the Manatee County Board of County Commissioners voted to to place the “Water Quality, Fish and Wildlife Habitat Preservation and Parks” funding measure on the ballot. This means that all Manatee County voters will have an opportunity to “Vote Yes” for clean water and parks on the November 3, 2020 general election ballot. The measure would provide dedicated county funding for water quality protection, natural areas preservation and parks in Manatee County.
Pandemic underscores how public parks shape public health – Uneven access to green spaces is a health risk that can affect longevity and mental health. Washington Post Article
What is the referendum language to appear on the ballot?
WATER QUALITY PROTECTION, FISH AND WILDLIFE HABITAT PRESERVATION, AND PARK
AD VALOREM TAX AND BONDS
To finance the acquisition, improvement, and management of land to protect drinking water sources and water quality, preserve fish and wildlife habitat, prevent stormwater runoff pollution, and provide parks, shall Manatee County levy an additional 0.15 mill ad valorem tax and issue general obligation bonds in a total principal amount not exceeding $50,000,000, maturing within 20 years, bearing interest not exceeding the legal rate, payable from such ad valorem taxes, with annual public audits?
FOR BONDS ____
What will the money be used for?
Funds will be used to conserve lands that protect drinking water sources, protect the water quality of bays, rivers, and creeks, prevent polluted storm water runoff from flowing into bays, rivers, and creeks, acquire and preserve fish and wildlife habitat, provide natural floodwater storage to help reduce flooding, conserve natural areas, provide parks, and manage environmentally significant lands and parks.
How much will it cost me?
About $2.40 a month, which is a very small price to pay to protect our water quality, preserve natural areas,and provide parks. (The average homeowner in Manatee County would pay $29 per year.) 0.15 mil property tax increase is 0.00015 of a homeowner’s net annual property value.
Which properties will be protected?
Manatee County does not have a list of pre-selected properties, but rather criteria to evaluate potential properties for conservation which would be used by the County’s citizen’s oversight committee, the Environmental Land Management and Acquisition Advisory Committee (ELMAAC). The current criteria include attributes such as connectivity, proximity to existing protected properties, whether the parcel is located in a 100-year flood plain, whether the parcel is part of a riverine habitat corridor, abundance of federally or state-listed plants or animal species, extent of biodiversity, degree of threat from development, and the level of stewardship that already exists or would be required.
Existing County preserves like Robinson Preserve and Johnson Preserve on Braden River are excellent examples of the kind of properties Manatee County would conserve in the future.
Unfortunately, due to a lack of dedicated county funding for land conservation, many important natural areas have already been lost to development. The best example of this loss is Long Bar Point, a 500-acre property in Cortez that is the watershed for north Sarasota Bay, a waterbody nicknamed by local fisherman as “The Kitchen” due to its bounty of seafood. Conserving that land would have protected the shallow waters, where many sea life lay their eggs, by holding storm water runoff and allowing the land to filter pollution before it enters the bay. Unfortunately, the property is now clear cut and stripped of habitat in preparation for 500+ residences, square feet in the hundreds of thousands for commercial space, and miles of roads, all impervious surfaces that will overwhelm the bay with storm water polluting this fragile ecosystem.