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Coastal Dune Lakes are Under Siege

Discussion in 'All About SoWal' started by South Walton Community Council, Sep 8, 2015.

  1. South Walton Community Council

    South Walton Community Council Community Organization

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    The internationally significant Walton County Coastal Dune Lakes are under siege. On Tuesday, September 8, the Walton County Commission will hold an adoption hearing on a plan amendment that, contrary to state law, will have a grave adverse impact to this very unique ecosystem which is only found in Walton County and areas in Australia and New Zealand.

    Please act now as the vote will happen TODAY September 8th.

    SWCC of South Walton County Florida believes this is an issue of statewide concern and that more analysis is needed to ensure that any Commission action preserves the integrity of this internationally significant state resource for future generations.

    ACTION NEEDED: Walton County Commissioners need to hear from you NOW. Tell them the proposed amendment should be denied or the vote postponed until the protection of these lakes can be ensured.

    Individual contacts:
    District 1: William "Bill" Chapman, chabill@co.walton.fl.us, (850) 835-4860
    District 2: Cecilia Jones, joncecilia@co.walton.fl.us, (850) 892-4020
    District 3: Bill Imfeld, imfbill@co.walton.fl.us, (850) 892-8474
    District 4: Sara Comander, comsara@co.walton.fl.us, (850) 835-4834
    District 5: Cindy Meadows, meacindy@co.walton.fl.us, (850) 231-2978


    More Information on Walton County Coastal Dune Lakes

    Both the Department of Economic Opportunity and the Department of Environmental Protection commented that eliminating protective plan policies within the dune protection zone would cause significant harm to these resources. Similar comments were provided by US Fish & Wildlife Service and the West Florida Regional Planning Council. Offers of technical assistance from these agencies for reasonable changes have been ignored by the County.

    With no credible data and analysis to support the amendment, no meaningful and predictable standards to guide development applications, and no resolution of conflicts with other comprehensive plan policies, the County is poised to act TODAY September 8th.


    These lakes are a national and international treasure which Walton County must protect.


    For more information see 1000 Friends' July 16, 2015 comment letter, 1000 Friends and Florida Wildlife Federation's July 30 comment letter, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity's August 6comment letter, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's August 11 comment letter, the US Fish and Wildlife Service's July 28 comment email, the Regional Planning Council's August 27 comment letter, and the August 25 objection letter sent by 1000 Friends of Florida and the Florida Wildlife Federation. We will provide additional updates as they become available.

    The subject of a nationally acclaimed video produced for PBS by videographer Elam Stolfus, these unique lakes occur nowhere else in Florida, and are listed as globally impaired by the Florida Natural Areas Inventory. You can watch a brief overview video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfdbwgqshYk. Also see comments submitted regarding flaws in a report used by Walton County to support the plan amendment. For regular updates on this issue, please visit 1000 Friends' Coastal Dunes post.
     
  2. Jimmy T

    Jimmy T Beach Fanatic

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    Does anybody know what happened at the meeting with respect to this topic?
     
  3. Sun Chaser

    Sun Chaser Beach Lover

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    Keeping with the current trend, Walton County BCC voted against preserving the Coastal Dune Lakes. They voted to move the protection from under the Comp Plan to the Land Development Code.

    I am pasting an excellent synapsis from a member of a Facebook group that, if you care about the CDLs, should join. "Walton County Ideas for Visioning and Quality of Life":

    The commissioners willfully ignored the calls for a decision based in science to ensure the healthy protection of the lakes a natural resources recognized by the Florida State Legislature last year as important to the state’s economy. Also ignored were the concerns & comments by the DEP, DEO, WFRPC, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NWFWMD & their offer of assistance in crafting a solution that would protect the lakes while allowing the property owners to build. WC’s own CDLAB has made many request for a science based decision. They were also ignored. Willful ignorance ruled!

    Now that the protection has been removed from the real safety of the Comp Plan & placed in the Land Development Code which can be much more easily manipulated, Commissioner Imfeld has asked the Planning Department to talk to the agencies. In true Walton County fashion, remove the greatest protection first and then see what the agencies would suggest. We will have to watch this very closely.

    One reasoning point was “Walton County hasn’t been enforcing it’s own regulations so it’s not fair to start now” even though WC changed the way it was calculating the percentage of land that must be preserved in 2011. So rather than considering returning to the former method the protect was removed from the Comp Plan, thus changing it for everyone. So now we are adjusting our policy to provide cover to WC for their sins of the past instead of creating sound policy.

    Another reasoning point was “the lakes are fine health” based on a flawed analysis by a local citizen whose credentials have never been established in public while a more comprehensive scientific rebuttal was presented by a local scientist who has actually been studying our coastal dune lakes but ignored.

    The irony of discussing crafting a provision for the allowance of small houses in Walton County a nationwide trend during another part of the meeting while changing the coastal dune lake protections to allow for larger houses, carriage houses, garages, pools, patios, decks & driveway/parking areas to accommodate all that was not missed. The hypocrisy is astounding. Lauding the coastal dune lakes in one breath as precious while paving the way to more & bigger development around these sensitive waterbodies with no scientific assessment to back up the decision.

    I am disappointed in the commissioners, the Planning Department, any part of our local government that calls itself environment and the citizens who insisted on building bigger home compounds in these sensitive areas who drove this battle. They won in the short term & we will all pay in the long term when Walton County will be required to remediate these waterbodies
     
  4. Sun Chaser

    Sun Chaser Beach Lover

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    I'm as libertarian as can be, and I don't propose more government, but in light of the voting record and general sense of who these commissioners listen to, I am definitely in favor SoWal incorporating. It is the only way to stop the developers and some of these homeowners that cannot look past what they want for own individual property.

    Google map "Four Prong Lake" in Destin and do a map search along Front Beach Road in Panama City Beach and see the former Coastal Dune Lakes.
     
  5. Matt J

    Matt J SWGB

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    How about the woman who got up and said she completely understood all of the concerns, but F-that she owns a lot and wants to build a retirement home.

    Hypocrisy at its worst!
     
  6. Jimmy T

    Jimmy T Beach Fanatic

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    Thank you for the information Sun Chaser. I was really hoping that the BCC would do more to protect one of the most amazing resources that our county has.
     
  7. Dawn

    Dawn Beach Fanatic

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    Fixed it for you.

    I swear it seems sometimes people do the wrong things just to thumb their noses at those who want to do the right thing. Screwing coastal dune lakes is cutting off your own nose to spite your face.

    How did the vote breakout?
     
  8. Lake View Too

    Lake View Too SoWal Insider

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    This issue is a lot more nuanced than people are aware of. The ordinance, that was modified, affected a lot more people, adversely, than you might realize. First of all, the ordinance prohibited long time residents from rebuilding their homes, which in most cases, have been here for generations, in the case of catastrophic damage, to the 25% footprint rule, which includes the house footprint, all driveways, all walkways, and all decks, whether pervious or not. Second, the ordinance affected even residents, or property owners, living across the road from lakefront lots. If even a portion of their property was within the 300' zone, they were subject to all the restrictions of that ordinance. And, probably most importantly, this ordinance affected many, many property owners, who had purchased their property years before this ordinance was passed. These people, probably, had dreams of building their dream house on this treasured property, for most of their lives.
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2015
  9. Lake View Too

    Lake View Too SoWal Insider

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    I'm not saying a good, strong, environmentally sound ordinance should not be crafted, going forward. This is what, I think, is being attempted. The ordinance retroactively adversely affected a lot more people than I think was the intent of the ordinance. The remedy may have pushed the pendulum too far the other way, but, hopefully, all measures going forward will be publicized better, so people won't be punished retroactively, and know precisely what they are getting into when they purchase near the lakes.
     
  10. Captain Larry

    Captain Larry SoWal.com Featured Blogger

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    As a life long lover of the water ways of south walton I have to give lake View Too a lot of credit for understanding what the ordinance actually would have done... as originally drafted it CONDEMNED just about every existing house in SOWAL. By the time it made it to it's 21st revision it was down to condemning "only" a few hundred existing homes. Lets have some common sense in drafting these ordinances so they will actually protect what we all hold near and dear and not penalize a lot of long time locals who worked hard to have what they have here. Stemming run off to the dune lakes IS a big deal and needs to be dealt with. Impervious surfaces, fertilizers, pesticides and run off are real issues that impact the Lakes. What is the biggest impact on the Dune Lakes ? Why 30-A of course... every bit of asbestos brake lining, drop of anti freeze from over heated cars and blob of oil from a hot engine that hits 30-A gets washed into a lake eventually. That has WAY more impact than folks not being able to rebuild their house that has been there for 20 years............ The ordinance did NOTHING about that. Before you "jump on the bandwagon" to "save the world", try to understand just what you supporting. If you really want to save the Dune lakes let's outlaw golf course lawns around them that require tons of fertilizer and pesticide. My wife works hard to keep our yard beautiful and fit in with a "controlled community" and yet it is ALL native vegetation with the exception of 2 Palm trees a previous owner planted ... and it is done with NO chemicals that can get into the Lakes.....
     
  11. kurt

    kurt Admin Staff Member

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    Larry and LV2 are good lakefront owners. Unfortunately I'm afraid you guys are in the minority. I know there's a lot we can do to protect our lakes. Runoff is number one problem I suppose. I'd love to see each lake that has homes on it form a lake lovers club and work together to stop using chemicals, control runoff, eliminate septic tanks, din lights, etc.

    Offenders should be dealt with by neighbors if possible.
     
  12. Jimmy T

    Jimmy T Beach Fanatic

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    I think we're all on the same side here in this forum. We all want to preserve the coastal dune lakes.

    If everybody else cared, the regulations would be minimal; if you're in a lake watershed, you do the right thing because you know it's the right thing to do. You don't clear your property to the lakeside, pave it, put in a lawn and spray it with all sorts of weird chemicals. But not all folks share the same respect and care for our environment, and that is where we need the protections.

    I live in the western lake watershed. 3/4 of our property is a conservation easement. And it's beautiful. We can't touch it. If it wasn't a conservation easement, would we have put in a lawn and fertilized it and put pesticides on it? No way. We know where all that junk goes. And we know that every critter and plant that lives on our property is part of something bigger.

    I can see LVT's point about the regulation preventing an existing dwelling to be rebuilt. I agree that's silly. If it's there, it's there. That's a reasonable change to the rules.

    But I still believe that for the future, it's a good idea to protect the lakes and environment to the maximum extent possible. Sure, some of us will do this because we care. Others will not, and I think this is why we need strict laws and regulations.
     
  13. Matt J

    Matt J SWGB

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    Actually what was removed was a procedure in the LDC that had not been enforced, when planning started enforcing it people got up in arms. They were told that their homes would be nonconforming and therefore would not be able to rebuild in the event of fire/disaster. This is not true as there are plenty of grand fathering provisions in the LDC for nonconforming buildings. Some specifically written for homes that fell into the CDLPZ.

    Yes, there were vacant lots that became virtually unbuildable due to the LDC, but it was a very small minority, and should have been dealt with differently. This opens up the door for over development and ultimately that county will be on the hook for remediation.
     

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