Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Seeking Bids to Manage Springs

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Seeking Bids to Manage Springs

Article excerpt

SARASOTA COUNTY

When a concessionaire's lease of Warm Mineral Springs expires June 30, the Sarasota County Commission and North Port City Commission want to ensure that the tourist attraction remains open.

The city and county, which jointly purchased the springs for $5.5 million in December 2010, agreed to seek competitive bids on a new lease that would keep the mineral springs and its spa, cafe and gift shop operating another 10 months.

Cypress Lending, which currently manages the springs, and Dr. Grigory Pogrebinsky's investment group, WMS Sarasota, which owns 16 acres adjacent to the springs where it wants to build a hotel and medical complex, are likely to be among those who submit offers.

In the meantime, the City Commission and County Commission will try again to craft a proposal that will encourage developers to submit ideas for a public-private partnership that would preserve the springs while also encouraging economic development.

In November, the North Port Commission, with two newly elected members, rejected "an invitation to negotiate" recommended by the county as too broad and not allowing enough public oversight.

On Wednesday, during a seven-hour mediation session intended to keep them from taking their dispute to court, the city and county commissioners still could not come to terms about what they think should be done on the 81 acres.

The county commissioners unanimously think a resort could be built there.

North Port Commissioner Tom Jones, who has returned to work after three months recovering from a stroke, and City Commissioner Jim Blucher said they do, as well.

Blucher said the springs can be protected from development with an adequate buffer. "Why wouldn't you want a hotel on the rest of it?... We don't need to protect that. We need to build on that."

Blucher stressed that the property's "activity center" zoning allows residential and commercial development. …

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