Fort Mose Complex to Tell of Its History; Group to Buy Land and Be Reimbursed

Article excerpt

Byline: Shawna Sundin, Times-Union staff writer

ST. AUGUSTINE -- Fort Mose, home of the first free black settlement in North America, soon will have an interpretive complex on it now that St. Johns County officials have agreed to buy land adjacent to the site.

The Trust for Public Land, a national non-profit organization that helps protect land, initially will buy the two pieces of property on each side of Fort Mose off U.S. 1 in the northern part of St. Augustine.

But the county will borrow $2.65 million, the estimated purchase price of the properties, and then reimburse the organization. The county will apply for a Florida Communities Trust grant that officials said likely will be awarded for 75 percent of the purchase price.

"Obviously there is some risk but I feel that risk is well worth taking," said St. Johns County Commissioner Nicholas Meiszer.

The county would end up paying the remaining 25 percent, or $662,500. The county would also pay an additional $82,000 to cover the cost of appraisals, surveys and interest to buy the eight-acre site north of Fort Mose and the 16-acre site to the south.

The County Commission yesterday unanimously approved the purchase arrangement ending a long struggle to stop the privately owned land next to Fort Mose from being developed.

"This decision just boils down to one sentence," said Commissioner James Bryant. …