SARASOTA — Supporters of the Legacy Trail were in a cheering mode Tuesday night as Sarasota County voters approved a referendum allowing for the expansion of the popular trail.
With all Sarasota County precincts reporting Tuesday night, 137,853 voters, or 70.58 percent, cast ballots in favor of the measure compared to 57,470 votes or 29.42 percent opposed.
The question on Tuesday’s ballot asked voters to allow Sarasota County officials to borrow up to $65 million to purchase an additional 6 miles of abandoned railroad corridor to extend the Legacy Trail into downtown Sarasota, and construct the entire 9-mile extension.
The referendum was necessary since the purchase price exceeded the $22.6 million limitation in the county’s charter on the county’s borrowing power without voter approval.
“We are just thrilled,” said Andrea Seager, co-chair of the group Vote Yes for the Sarasota County Legacy Trail Extension. “We’re extremely grateful to the county commission for the opportunity to ask the residents of Sarasota County if they wanted the Legacy Trail extended. It’s been a long, long haul and we’re just really, really thrilled with the results.”
Earlier, Seager indicated supporters had talked to a multitude of county voters about the referendum and received few negative comments about it.
With the passage of the referendum, county officials will now prepare for a closing on the remaining 6 miles of abandoned corridor.
That closing is scheduled to take place in May, contingent upon passage of the referendum.
According to county officials, the borrowing of the $65 million will occur through the issuance of two bond series.
The first series of bonds will be issued in 2019 in the amount of $35 million. That will cover the acquisition costs of the next segment at $30.1 million and design and engineering work. The latter will include work on connections to the trail in Venice and North Port.
The second series of bonds will be issued in 2020 in the amount of $30 million which will be used to construct the extension of the trail.
According to estimates by the county’s budget staff, approval of the referendum will result in a property tax increase of $16 on a home with a taxable value of $200,000.