MARCO ISLAND — Land sharks continue to circle Tract K, the vacant property on Marco Island owned by the Collier County School District.
The city remains engaged in any discussions of a potential sale or any use for the land through ongoing meetings held between Superintendent Dennis Thompson, District operations officer Michele LaBute, City Council Chairman Frank Recker and interim-City Manager Jim Riviere.
“We just want to represent the citizens the best we can and when we see this much interest in a property, we keep involved,” Riviere said.
Collier County School District board member Pat Carroll has said a sales proposal looks to be in the works between the District and the city, although the timing of such discussions remains unclear.
In a recent memo to council, Riviere said council should consider a two-year option to buy and if city interest wanes after that, back out of the agreement at that time. He didn’t elaborate on the details of that agreement, which is to come before council in the future.
The issue is not on the council’s agenda for Monday, however a general direction from council may be given.
The city is among many interested parties, said Carroll, who has said she does not want to sell the property.
Thompson however disagrees, saying Tract K is too small at approximately 11.8 acres for the District to ever use.
“The superintendent is doing the best he can for the school district and the people of Collier County,” Riviere said. “That’s a good administrator.”
Riviere said he was only aware of two “substantive” moves toward acquiring Tract K, including the city and the proposed charter high school, Marco Island Discovery Center. The charter school recently sent a preliminary application to the District, however spokeswoman Leanne Zinser said the District is declining to comment on whether that application was well-received.
Marco Island Discovery Center chairwoman Jane Watt could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
Other parties once interested in Tract K are falling away, Riviere said.
That includes Conservation Collier, which decided on Monday that the property didn’t fit its land conservation requirements, despite a plea from Marco Island residents Fran and Doug Enman for the county to consider purchasing and protecting the land.
The Enmans have sought to keep the property for all county residents’ use, while not impacting the nearby Tigertail neighborhood with much traffic and noise. They also sought to ensure protection of the nesting American Bald Eagles on the site, they said.
Those eagles will remain protected and construction potential on the land is limited due to regulations, said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission bald eagle specialist Ulgonda Kirkpatrick on Thursday.
No construction is allowed when nesting eagles are present within 330 feet of the nest, said Kirkpatrick.
Currently on the table is a purchase option in the name of the city with the potential of representing all the different Marco organizations’ uses for Tract K, Riviere said on Thursday.
No price range is currently being discussed, he said. Previously, a sale price of $3.6 million payable over 10 years was considered, but council said that price was too high.
The ball is now resting in Marco’s court, officials said.
“Right now, we’re in a quandary,” Thompson said in a televised interview with Daily News editorial page editor Jeff Lytle on Monday. “We own it, but Marco controls it.” .
Riviere agreed. Any party interested in Tract K will have to make it through the Marco Island Planning Board to get the proper zoning, which has halted sales of the property in the past.
In other business, council is to set the maximum millage rate at the 5:30 p.m. meeting on Monday, following budget discussions in a workshop scheduled for 2 p.m.