Cone Ranch needs protection, all right — protection from the Hillsborough County Commission

1.  Florida Conservation and Environmental Group (FCEG) finally unveils their "proposal." A third grader with a green crayon and my barn cat to assist him could have put together something better.


2. They admit that taxpayers own the land. They think they can prevent more commercial development and more subdivision of the land. (Is there a Super Target for the cows?) Do they live in a suburban-style barn subdivision? Maybe the deer do ........Bambi Estates?


3. Their definition of ironclad has more holes in it than the Pimpin' Commish Kevin White's alibis.


Don't take my jaded word for it, have a look at some of the quotes. From the August 14th meeting Ken Jones with FCEG has these statements:(my thoughts are in red)


THE BEST THING FOR CONE RANCH IS FOR IT TO BE PRESERVED IN


PERPETUITY PERMANENTLY.


PERMANENTLY MEANS FOREVER.


NO DEVELOPMENT, NO MORE COMMERCIAL DEVELOPMENT, NO FURTHER


SUBDIVISION BEYOND WHAT WE'RE GOING TO PROPOSE HERE TODAY, (um, Mr. Jones it is preserved, do you know what our Comprehensive Plan is? And what do you mean "no more commercial development"? Is there a Walmart on the ranch I was unaware of? And what about "no further subdivisions? Did Fishhawk expand again? Is there a hidden cul de sac in the middle of the ranch we are unaware of? Enough with the scare tactics; please try to stick to the facts)



Later he says:


WE THINK THE BEST WAY TO PRESERVE CONE RANCH IS TO HARNESS


THE POWER OF AN IRONCLAD CONSERVATION EASEMENT. (wait till you hear what they think ironclad means)


He later says this about the water utility:


THEY HAVE TO MAXIMIZE IT FOR HIGHEST AND BEST USE, AND IN


MOST PEOPLE'S MINDS, THAT EQUATES TO LONG-TERM DEVELOPMENT


BY BEAZER HOMES, WCI, WHOEVER IT MIGHT BE. (it is on the Comprehensive Plan as PRESERVATION that is the highest and best use. This poor horse died several meetings ago yet he continues to beat it?


and still later.....


NOBODY ELSE HAS GIVEN YOU A PROPOSAL.


NOBODY ELSE HAS STEPPED UP TO THE PLATE TO PROTECT CONE


RANCH. Whaaaah! Ladies.............just because your dream man hasn't shown up and proposed to you yet does that mean you should say yes to the first guy that asks........just because he asked? I didn't think so either. You would think an attorney could come up with a better argument than that, but then again Kevin White's attorney let him use the argument that he was only pimpin' his aide for a friend — he was not sexually harassing her himself.



Mr. Jones started out his presentation saying he wanted to prove three things:


TODAY I HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH THREE THINGS.


FIRST, PROVE TO YOU THAT CONE RANCH, WHILE IN THE PUBLIC


OWNERSHIP, IS NOT CURRENTLY PERMANENTLY PROTECTED CONTRARY


TO POPULAR THINKING.


THERE HAVE BEEN MANY PRESS ACCOUNTS, MANY PEOPLE THAT STOOD


UP IN FRONT OF COUNTY STAFF AND COUNTY OFFICIALS AND SAID


THAT CONE RANCH IS PROTECTED.


THAT IS NOT THE CASE.


YOU HEARD AS MUCH FROM THE WATER DEPARTMENT TWO WEEKS AGO.


SECOND, I WANT TO EDUCATE AND ADVOCATE FOR THE USE OF A


CONSERVATION EASEMENT TO PERMANENTLY PROTECT CONE RANCH.


AND THE THIRD -- THE THIRD POINT I WANT TO PROVE TO YOU


TODAY IS FURTHER EXPLAIN HOW FCEG CAN USE ITS CONCEPT TO


HELP THE COUNTY RESTORE CONE RANCH AND PREVENT IT FROM EVER


BEING DEVELOPED.


Sadly..............he went down swinging.


Batting next: Keith Fountain, Director of Land Acquisition for the Nature Conservancy:


WHEN I WENT AND DID  A GOOGLE ON CONE RANCH I CAME UP WITH MEDIA ARTICLES THAT SHOWED THAT OTHER PARTIES WERE COMING TO THE COUNTY AND OFFERING UP PROPOSALS THAT CONTEMPLATED DEVELOPMENT OF AT LEAST PORTIONS OF THIS PIECE OF PROPERTY. (Didn't Mr. Jones just say that "nobody else has given you a proposal?" Strike one, batter.)


He then goes on to generalities about conservation easements, often saying "typically"  (I counted 8 times) when referring to them. (How about telling us specifically about this one, Mr. Fountain? After all, we have been waiting for months!)


Nope, he then goes on to say:


AND ONE THING I SHOULD HAVE SAID RIGHT UP FRONT,


CONSERVATION EASEMENTS ARE WIDE OPEN TO NEGOTIATION. (really, ya don't say?) Strike two!



Check out this exchange between Fountain and panel member Pamela Jo Hatley (Commissioner Kevin Beckner's appointee).... when she questions him about conservation easements:


IT'S REALLY SUBJECT TO NEGOTIATION, DEPENDING ON THE


INTENTIONS OF THE PARTIES AND THE GOALS OF THE PARTIES, SO


I ALSO KNOW THAT WITH PROPERTY RIGHTS AND LAND BEING WHAT


THEY ARE, ALL EASEMENTS ON LAND ARE EXTINGUISHABLE BY THE


PARTIES AND THAT THERE ARE GOING TO BE PROVISIONS BUILT IN


TO AN AGREEMENT UNDER WHAT CONDITIONS AN EASEMENT COULD


BECOME EXTINGUISHABLE BY THE PARTIES, SO WHAT PROVISIONS IN


THE NATURE CONSERVANCY'S CONSERVATION EASEMENTS -- WHAT


PROVISIONS DO THEY CONTAIN WITH REGARD TO EXTERMINATION OF


THE EASEMENT BY THE PARTIES?


>> THEY DON'T TYPICALLY CONTAIN A PROVISION TO THAT REGARD.


THERE IS OFTEN A PROVISION THAT ALLOWS FOR THE AMENDMENT OF


THE EASEMENT BY AGREEMENT OF BOTH PARTIES.


THERE'S NO UNILATERAL RIGHT TO CHANGE THE TERMS AND


CONDITIONS.


>> SO IT COULD BE AMENDED SO THAT THEN -- WHAT YOU'RE


SAYING IS THE PROVISIONS THAT ARE AGREED UPON WHEN YOU GO


INTO THIS CONSERVATION EASEMENT COULD BE AMENDED LATER, SO


THEY COULD CHANGE?


>> YES. (now that is IRONCLAD for ya!) Strike three, have a seat and maybe find another sport.


After Fountain's batting clinic I decided to do a little research on the Nature Conservancy, and frankly, this article is disturbing. This whole idea is starting to sound about as good as asking Brian Blair to babysit.


[image-1]Considering our BOCC blushed like schoolgirls when this "proposal" was offered up and quickly assembled this volunteer panel to figure out what is best for Cone Ranch (even though it is listed as preservation, it is publicly owned and it WASN'T FOR SALE) combined with the fact that they did something similar when Commissioner Jim "the Athletic Supporter" Norman wanted to put an expensive soccer park on it, I think it is best that ELAPP acquire this land. ELAPP is the county's own environmental land program recently overwhelmingly approved by voters to continue. If ELAPP has the land it will be safe (FROM OUR COMMISSIONERS). You can find out more and see how you can help the Cone Ranch by reviewing this information put together by environmentalist, activist and ELAPP committee member Mariella Smith.


I think the only thing this land needs protection from is our own Commissioners! So stay tuned for yet another episode of: Will the county successfully "preserve" preserved land by selling off this valuable public asset to private investors at the request of campaign contributors? Or will the county do the right thing and turn this land over to ELAPP where it will be safe (from Commissioners) in perpetuity? Will Kevin White pay up regarding his sexual harassment costs or leave taxpayers with the tab.................oops that is a whole nother scandal.

By Kelly Cornelius

PoHo contributor &

Photo credits: MariellaSmith at Flickr.com

With scandals galore in Hillsborough County, I am a little late on updating you on the most recent Cone Ranch meetings. Recall the Cone Ranch deal was our County Commission bending over backwards at a questionable proposal to buy the publicly owned land by private investors. The idea was pitched to County Commissioners by their Chairman, Commissioner Ken Half-truth Hagan, R -Ridiculous, in order to "preserve" Cone Ranch. The brokers pushing the deal are big time Republican donors. Uh-huh.

After many months and several meetings I think they have finally established that a) The land is publicly owned, and b) It is already preserved, and c)  It wasn't even for sale! I wonder how much that cost you in staff time from county employees? Here is a quick recap of what you missed at the August 14th meeting; I will cover the August 24th meeting in another post.

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