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Sarasota News Leader May 31, 2013 OPINION Page 63 development. But Barbetta is an attorney, so nity to convert a public asset worth at least $280,000 into cash for the strapped county fihe should already have known that. nances. In fact, Barbetta and fellow attorney Hines resorted to arcane legal rationalizations to jus- Also never mentioned during deliberations tify handing over a plum piece of real estate would have been how much the county might to a Michigan couple without considering the expect to pay for such a parcel if it was attempting to acquire land for waterfront access public's access needs or the county's purse. by the public. When the county is a land buyer, Which brings us to our second concern — the the sky is the limit among sellers. It would not loss of the people's asset without compensa- be difficult to imagine that a similar 60-foot by tion. 135-foot parcel with waterfront access would Before the Great Recession, the property cost the county half a million dollars or more. bought by the Baumanns in 2011 for $820,000 was appraised by the county property appraiser at $1.23 million. Thanks to the collapse of the Sarasota real estate market, the Baumanns have been the recipients of a generous reduction in taxable value of their property; it is down more than 44 percent from its peak value in 2006. We cannot say we are surprised by the actions of either Hines or Barbetta. They have shown themselves consistently to be advocates of the "haves" in Sarasota County and neglectors of the "have nots." Instead, our surprise is that Mason chose to support their blatant giveaway, rather than side with Robinson and Commissioner Nora Patterson, who rightly objected to the loss of public waterfront acIf the abandoned right of way had been ofcess. fered for sale in 2006, it would have been listed at approximately $800,000, based on the This "gift" from the Sarasota County taxpayasking price of other vacant waterfront lots ers has cost the public dearly. The people have on Avenida de Mayo at the time. As it was, lost a valuable potential access point for cathe value of the land based on the property noeists and kayakers and other similar waappraiser's assessment would have been more terfront activities. The people have had their than $575,000. After the reductions following property purloined by their elected representhe decline in real estate values, the proper- tatives to further enrich a wealthy landowner ty would be appraised at only about $280,000 who resides in another state, and whose Siesta Key vacation home is worth several times today. the value of the average Sarasota County Hines argued that this land now would be on house. The people have been injured by this the tax books and would provide tax revenue. breach of the public trust, and their indignaHe glibly overlooked the loss of an opportu- tion would be justified. %

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