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Environment

Manatee County Conservation Referendum Will Appear On November Ballot

Kayakers at Robinson Preserve in Bradenton.
Dennis Stroud
Environmentalists say Robinson Preserve in Bradenton is an example of an important conservation area in Manatee County.

Manatee County residents will see a land conservation referendum on November's ballot.

County Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution to place the measure before voters.

Voting yes on the referendum would mean approving a property tax increase to create a conservation fund.

The impact on the average homeowner would be about $29 a year.

The “Water Quality, Fish and Wildlife Habitat Preservation and Parks” funding measure would also allow the county to issue general obligation bonds in a total principal amount of up to $50,000,000. 

Manatee County and the Trust For Public Land conducted a survey earlier this year to gauge public opinion about the referendum. 67% of respondents said they would support the measure.

At Tuesday's meeting, Christine Johnson of the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast told commissioners that just 13% of land in Manatee County has been preserved.

“This may be Manatee County's last chance to preserve its remaining natural landscapes,” she said.  “Manatee County has lost thousands of acres of rare habitat from dry prairie to salt marshes. Your citizens are aware of this loss and we believe they want to do something about it.”

At least two commissioners noted that while they supported a voter referendum, they would not personally be voting for the measure in November.

Pinellas and Sarasota, Manatee’s neighboring counties to the north and south respectively, already have implemented taxes targeted for conservation.