DUNEDIN — The City Commission’s unanimous decision to buy the 80.4-acre Jerry Lake at its appraised value of $495,000 was called epic during a discussion April 19.

The property is near the northeast corner of Virginia Avenue and Keene Road, abutting the northern boundary of the Gladys Douglas Preserve, which the city recently acquired. The two properties combined will provide nearly 125 acres of additional recreation and public space.

“There is nothing this commission will do that will ever surpass the importance and impact of this decision,” Commissioner Moe Freaney said.

The purchase agreement was slated to go before the governing board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District on April 26 in Brooksville. 

Deputy City Manager Jorge Quintas thanked city engineer Bruce Wirth, saying his years of working with the water management district enabled city officials to bring forward the agreement.

"He (Wirth) did all the heavy lifting on this," Quintas said.

Wirth said some officials with the agency have been very accommodating and happy that the city is purchasing the property. He plans to attend the water management district's governing board meeting.

In essence, city officials say Jerry Lake is in good shape. 

“The lake itself is thriving. It’s full of fish and birds,” City Manager Jennifer Bramley said. "We are doing the right thing now, and we will continue to do the right thing.”

Funds for the purchase of the Jerry Lake property will be transferred from the city's parkland impact fee fund. A budget amendment in the amount of $500,000 will be brought before the commission at a future date for approval.

Staff expects to proceed with closing on the property within 90 days, contingent upon Swiftmud approving the sale to the city. Closing costs are not expected to exceed $5,000.

"This is a great day," Commissioner Jeff Gow said. "I'm excited."

Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski said she was getting bombarded with questions about when people can go fishing on the lake.

"That's all I'm hearing about," she said.

Discussions of recreational uses will continue.

"Whether we do recreational use at all, we have preserved 80 acres of a lake environmentally forever. And that's a wonderful thing if all we ever do is look at it," Freaney said.

In other news

Commissioners are asking for the status on new pickleball and tennis courts.

City officials are looking at having a new pickleball court at Eagle Scout Park and are trying to get specifications. The site had a landfill underneath so borings are being done to determine the stability of the material. They expect to have more information around the start of May.

Stirling Park should also be considered for courts, Bujalski said. 

Freaney asked for a timeline on the new courts, saying tennis and pickleball players are raising questions about them.

"We had both groups come to us. It's a little edgy," she said.

Commissioner Deborah Kynes made similar comments.

"And we have to try to the best of our ability to balance their needs," Kynes said.

City officials will provide information on the status of the courts.