by Claire Aronson
A 33-acre property along the Braden River’s north bank, which was subject of the Keep Woods opposition effort last year, has changed hands.
Myarra Property Joint Venture LLC purchased the approximately 33-acre property from ESME I LLC of Venice for $1.6 million in December. The principal and mailing addresses listed for Myarra Property Joint Venture LLC in state documents is 5800 Lakewood Ranch Blvd., Sarasota, which is also the address of Neal Communities. Pat and John Neal are two of the listed managers.
Last November, Neal Communities terminated the contract for the purchase of the land from Albert Myara. At the time, developer Pat Neal said he decided not to proceed with his plans for the Myara subdivision, which called for up to 32 houses on 33 acres.
A future connection between Linger Lodge Road and Clubhouse Drive, which is included in the county’s comprehensive plan and was the reason for the county staff’s denial recommendation, contributed to Neal’s decision. The proposed thoroughfare was not included in the applicant’s preliminary site plans, making the proposal inconsistent with the comprehensive plan.
“It is our hope and wish that Mr. Myara can accomplish his goals for the property or that he will negotiate with the owners of the homes in the adjacent subdivision to provide this land as a preserve adjacent to the preserve granted by Carl Bergstresser for the adjacent property to the west,” Neal said in a prepared statement at the time.
On Wednesday, Neal said they are in a process of submitting an application for a comprehensive plan amendment regarding the future roadway connection.
“We had an awkward contract and didn’t have enough time to do a comprehensive plan amendment,” he said. “We then formed an investor group that bought the property.”
This is an investment by a longtime Neal investor, Neal said Wednesday.
“The motive isn’t necessarily home building at all,” he said. “There are no immediate plans for development.”
But this isn’t stopping the Keep Woods group from continuing to work to preserve the property.
“We are as committed as ever working to preserve that property along the Braden River and maintain the environment for the wildlife,” said Brenda Russell, with the Keep Woods group.
Earlier this year, Neal met with Keep Woods members to discuss the property.
“He has expressed a willingness to sell the property provided we provide sufficient money,” Russell said.
If they would be willing to put together the funding, Russell said Neal would be able to make his profit and “everybody would be happy.”
“There is a ticking clock,” she said. “At this point, we are keeping with our goal that has been all along that is working to preserve the property.”
When asked about this Wednesday, Neal said “that is essentially true.”
“I expressed a willingness to sell,” Neal said. “I was speaking for the Neals but had not consulted the primary owner of the property or Mr. Myara.”
As part of the Keep Woods opposition effort, nearly 5,000 people from throughout Manatee County signed two petitions — one asking the commission to deny the rezone request, and the other to preserve the land as a nature preserve. Other concerns include the effect on the Braden River and the overall quality of life for the people and wildlife.
While exploring all options, Russell said their “absolute ultimate outcome” is that some environmental philanthropy purchases the property. Another option could be the establishment of a Municipal Service Benefit Unit, which would mean area residents would be taxed a special assessment as a possible way to purchase the property, Russell said.
“There has been tremendous community wide support for preserving this property,” she said.