NORTH PORT, Fla. - Nearly 6,000 acres of land were up for auction in North Port on Thursday, all while local environmental groups held their breath.
Some of those groups were on hand for the auction, which wrapped up around 4pm. But the property didn't sell for the opening price of $14 million. It was initially thought it could go for as much as $30 million. A few years ago it sold for more than $60 million.
Those holding the auction say they will now give it some time to see if anyone else comes forward. “We’ve got several groups working. We have some that have called that did not attend the auction because they thought it would bring $30 or $40 million. Now when they find out that $14 million would buy it, certainly they’re interested. So we expect to get it sold. We’ll have a hearing with the judge next week,” said William Bone with the National Auction Group.
Those with the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast have been paying close attention.
"We have been in existence for 10 years. Almost our entire time we've been looking at this property. Sarasota County has been looking at it for decades," says the president of the organization, Christine Johnson.
She says the 5,700 acres known as McCall Ranch are more than just land. "Sixty to seventy percent of this property is wetlands. The sheet flow that comes off this property into the Snover Waterway is so important to North Port’s water supply."
The effects go beyond just the water. "In addition, it is adjacent to some very significant pieces of property. You talk about corridors for animals."
At one point the property was planned for the Isles of Athena project. It was touted to have 13,000 plus homes and millions of square feet in retail and commercial space.
"If we develop everything, we are going to have some issues with flooding. This property holds water. You develop everything to the max you are going to have flooding elsewhere."