SARASOTA COUNTY - It was shocking news to many earlier this week when city commissioners in North Port said they're looking to sell Warm Mineral Springs. City leaders we talked to say not so fast.
They only want to make sure it's an option if they can't come to an agreement with those who jointly own it with them: Sarasota County.
The initial reaction was that the majority of North Port Commissioners are ready to sell the city's stake in Warm Mineral Springs. "That is not the case," says Mayor Linda Yates.
However, she says there are some concerns with plans moving forward on a public private partnership on the property. Talks of a hotel and high end spa have been brought up by other city and county leaders. "I don't believe it is allowable for a government entity to purchase property with the intent to lease it back to a private entity or have them operate their business on that property."
If those talks continue, Yates says it appears three of the five city commissioners will then be willing to walk. "Our decision is sell the entire 81 acres. Just sell it."
"It is troublesome on many levels." Sarasota County Commission chair Christine Robinson says the situation has taken a dramatic shift since two city commissioners were replaced this past election. "This purchase was based upon a good relationship with trust and common goals. We were pushing forward in a very positive direction. It was appearing to go very well and this occurs."
Yates says a survey this past year of residents indicates they want more green space and public access, and are not as concerned with high end development on public property where a private company will again regain control. "That is not what the public is seeking and that is not what they were told."
Yates says what they really want is a joint meeting between the two governments -- something county leaders so far have been unwilling to schedule until they get more info. A message Yates says they are now sending loud and clear. "Hopefully we get to a joint meeting where we can talk this out. They wanted to know what we are going to talk about."
Commissioner Robinson says they still need an official letter from the city before they can proceed. The county commission does not meet again until after the first of the year. She also says she can only speak for herself, but has no plans on agreeing to sell the property.