Sarasota County commits to help buy Orange Hammock Ranch
Sarasota County formally committed Tuesday to help fund the purchase and conservation of the 5,774-acre Orange Hammock Ranch area in North Port.
Environmental leaders and government officials hope the unanimous vote by the County Commission will be the last step needed to negotiate a final purchase price for the coveted property that is widely considered one of, if not the most critical, preservation projects remaining in the county.
The commission's vote directs its staff to continue to negotiating the purchase, public access and maintenance agreements with the ranch owners, the Southwest Florida Water Management District and the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast, which has spearheaded the latest effort to protect the area.
Intentionally missing from the commission's direction, however, is a maximum price the county would be willing to pay for the property.
Although county staff initially recommended the county contribution not exceed $5 million, commissioners agreed the cap could hinder or even endanger the county's ability to effectively negotiate how to split costs with water management district or other potential last-minute contributors.