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Water-Related News

Gov. Rick Scott gets out-voted as Cabinet approves ranch preservation plan

Gov. Rick Scott was handed a rare setback Tuesday as Cabinet members overruled him and voted to preserve one of the last surviving ranches in central Florida.

Scott said the lowest appraised value of the property was too high. But his three fellow Republicans on the Cabinet disagreed, including Scott's strongest ally, Attorney General Pam Bondi, who switched her vote after an explanation of the arcane appraisal system and a forceful plea from Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

The Cabinet voted to spend $4.1 million to protect 1,300 acres under a conservation easement in which agricultural lands are protected through payments to landowners and restrictions on commercial development.

The Kilbee Ranch, in a rural enclave of Seminole County north of Orlando, was acquired by E.H. Kilbee in the 1880s. Vestiges of a hunting camp and a century-old sawmill remain on the property, along with 350 head of cattle. Deer, turkey, coyotes and black bears inhabit the ranch, which borders a state forest and is near two rivers.

With the ranch increasingly hemmed in by subdivisions and shopping centers, Kilbee's family wanted to honor his wish to save the ranch and prevent commercial development.

Kilbee's great-granddaughter, Diane Gaff, a school reading specialist from Cross City, said the family could have made a lot more money by selling the ranch to a developer.