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SWCC Report On County Request To DCA

Discussion in 'Local Government and Groups' started by Richard, Feb 16, 2005.

  1. Richard

    Richard Beach Comber

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    STATE OF FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNITY AFFAIRS REJECTS WALTON COUNTY?S PROPOSAL TO INCREASE DENSITY IN FLOODPLAINS AND WETLANDS

    Background. The Walton County Board of County Commissioners (except for Commissioner Meadows) proposed an amendment to the Comprehensive Plan to delete the current restrictions on density in the floodplains and wetlands and allow increased development in those areas. That proposal was submitted to the State of Florida Department of Community Affairs (DCA) for review. On February 4th, DCA released its report, called the ?ORC? Report. (?ORC? stands for Objections, Recommendations, and Comments). In a stunningly critical report, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), the Northwest Florida Water Management District (NWFWMD) and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) joined DCA in expressing serious issues with the Walton County Commissioner?s proposal to delete current density restrictions in floodplains and wetlands.

    Synopsis. The ORC Report expressed concerns with a number of the County?s proposals including those proposals which:

    ? delete density restrictions in floodplains and wetlands,
    ? delete timetables and deadlines for accomplishing policies,
    ? allow more active recreation uses of environmentally sensitive areas,
    ? fail to provide the transportation analysis needed to support the proposals,
    ? fail to comply with state law regarding water resources and maintaining the functions of natural systems and surface water quality,

    More Detail
    DCA, the lead agency in reviewing Comprehensive Plan amendments concluded, among other things:

    ? Walton County had failed to adequately explain or provide any supporting data or analysis to assess the likely impacts of its proposals,
    ? The proposals created inconsistencies within the Comprehensive Plan document. As an example, DCA points out that the Plan expresses an intent to limit impacts to natural resources such as wetlands and floodplains and then proposes to increase densities in such areas which, increases impacts on these natural resources
    ? The proposals to allow development in floodplains at a much greater level ?would create concerns about development in the most vulnerable parts of the coastal high hazard area. These areas are unsuitable for increased levels of development due to the inherent characteristics of the areas.? DCA concluded ?the current Comprehensive Plan strategy for floodplain protection should be maintained.?
    ? With regard to wetlands specifically, DCA concluded ?the strategy for wetland protection?does not direct incompatible land uses away from wetlands so as to avoid and minimize the impact of these land uses upon wetlands.?

    In its synopsis, DCA stated that ?(s)pecific areas of concern created by the proposed amendments are the protection of wetlands and floodplains, and the impact of the proposed amendments relative to development activities in floodplains, wetlands, the coastal high hazard area in general and the velocity zone in particular. The combination of these proposed amendments creates concern about the ability of the County to direct population concentrations away from areas that are subject to destruction by natural disaster and restrict development activities where these activities would damage or destroy coastal resources.?

    The NWFWMD provided detailed objections regarding the floodplain and wetland proposals. That agency concluded generally that ?(d)istrict staff are concerned that the proposed text amendments increase the potential for adverse cumulative impacts on wetland resources and functions, floodplain functions and water quality.? More specific parts of the report recommend the ?maintenance of natural floodplain dimension sand functions, both to limit storm hazards and damage and to preserve such floodplain functions as water quality protection, regulation of runoff, and shoreline stabilization.? The Report further expresses ?concern over the potential implications of policies that allow full density or intensity in wetlands??

    FDEP also provided a detailed statement stating that ?(i)n general, the Department has serious concerns about several proposed amendments that appear to weaken Walton county?s existing resource protection policies.? ?We are also concerned about proposed policies that do not guide development to areas where natural environmental characteristics would make the sites inherently more suitable for development, and text changes that weaken existing resource protection.?

    In its statement on the wetland proposals in particular, FDEP states that ?(t)he Department strongly recommends that the foregoing wetlands policies be revisited and made consistent with state law.?

    The FDOT took the position that ??the result of the elimination of density restrictions, in effect will generate the same impacts as a land use change.? The FDOT then recommended that Walton County provide a ?transportation analysis to show availability of facilities to accommodate changes to density restrictions in Policy L-1.1.4 and Policy C-3.2.3 as required by (state law)?.

    Planning vs. Permitting. What is further interesting about the FDEP report and the NWFWMD Report is their joint concerns that the County is abrogating its localized planning responsibility in favor of a state-wide or federal permitting agency such as FDEP with regard to the protection of natural resources. Walton County staff have repeatedly taken the position in public meetings that if a developer gets a permit from a state or federal agency, e.g., a fill permit for wetlands, the County will accept the permit and will allow the wetlands to be filled without any independent County determination of the suitability of filling the wetlands or floodplains.

    FDEP is one of the primary permitting agencies. Yet the agency?s comments in the ORC Report seem to convey a concern that the county is accepting its permits, which are based on more generic, universal criteria, as a substitute for local planning based on local values and issues. The FDEP report states: ?the protection of natural resources through land use planning is based on the principle that a location?s natural environmental characteristics render the site inherently more suitable for some land uses than for others. In contrast,?, FDEP continues, ?the permitting process is primarily reactive-that is, the process is focused on an application for a specific activity at a particular site.? The report then recommends that the County be ?proactive in identifying and preserving its natural resources by directing land uses into areas where infrastructure is available and where density and intensity of use can be best accommodated with minimal effects on the natural resource base.?

    The NWDWMD Report is even more critical. That report states ?(d)istrict staff are concerned about text revisions to this policy that seem to provide an exception to limitations on dredge and fill where permits have been issued?This appears to let permitting supersede land use planning and, in doing so, weaken existing protection of wetlands. Given that proposed wetland impacts generally require state and federal permits regardless of plan policies, including an essentially absolute exception to a wetland protection policy when permits have been granted would seem to render the policy meaningless.?

    The only agency that expressed few concerns with the County?s proposals was the West Florida Regional Planning Council. That Council reviews Walton County?s proposals for their effects on regional resources or facilities and extra-jurisdictional impacts. Unlike the other agencies that wrote detailed comments, the Regional Planning Council responded in a very general memorandum, which concluded that, ?the proposed amendment appears to be generally consistent with the West Florida Strategic Regional Policy Plan.? It acknowledged, however, that ?staff submits this review without Planning Council review due to the timing of response requirements and meeting date conflicts?. The report further stated that, ?a final recommendation of consistency or non-consistency (with the West Florida Strategic Regional Policy Plan) will be made by the Council after the amendment is adopted.?

    The entire ORC Report can be viewed on the DCA website: <http://www.dca.state.fl.us> It will also be put on the County?s web site. <http://www.co.walton.fl.us>.

    The next step: The County has 60 days in which to adopt, adopt with changes or determine that it will not adopt the proposed amendments.

    What Can You Do?
    It is a tremendous validation that DCA and the other agencies share our concerns about the welfare of our community and our natural resources with regard to our Commissioners? proposals.

    Write your commissioners, write letters to the editor and let them know you support the concerns expressed in the ORC Report, you support protection of our natural resources such as wetlands and floodplains, you support responsible growth management that reduces the risk to public safety and minimizes the economic burden on everyone caused by unwise development, You may want to send a copy to the West Florida Regional Planning Council http://www.wfrpc.dst.fl.us P.O. Box 9759 Pensacola, FL 32513-9759

    Commissioner Ken Pridgen
    <prikenneth@co.walton.fl.us>
    17400 State Hwy. 83 North
    DeFuniak Springs, FL 32433

    Commissioner Larry Jones
    <jonlarry@co.walton.fl.us>
    1483 County Hwy. 1087
    DeFuniak Springs, FL 32433

    Commissioner Cindy Meadows
    <meacindy@co.walton.fl.us>
    90 Spires Lane, Unit 7A
    Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459

    Commissioner Scott Brannon
    <brascott@co.walton.fl.us>
    31 Coastal Center Blvd.
    Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459

    Commissioner Ro Cuchens
    <cucro@co.walton.fl.us>
    417 Hwy. 20 East
    Freeport, FL 32439
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 16, 2005
  2. kurt

    kurt Admin Staff Member

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    If I were developing a virgin SoWal, I wouldn't put any buildings South of 30-A, and 30-A would run a minimum of 500 yards off the beach.

    One big park. :clap_1:
     
  3. Smiling JOe

    Smiling JOe SoWal Expert

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    (Excuse my brief moment for the use profanity)

    Hell Yes!!!
    Kurt for Mayor
     
  4. kurt

    kurt Admin Staff Member

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    :lolabove:
     
  5. RiverOtter

    RiverOtter got any pics?

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    Imagine what that would do to the prices on property along the bay :shock:
     
  6. kurt

    kurt Admin Staff Member

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    Well the bay would be a park too of course. ;-)
     
  7. Oldtimer

    Oldtimer Beach Lover

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    Kurt, you have my vote, but it's just about 30 years too late.

    I remember when Grayton Beach was not on the map, literally. No one vacationed at Grayton if they could afford a motel at any other ocean or beach area. We loved it then (still do), but just hate all the development of recent years. I'd trade all the conveniences and restaurants for the tranquility of the past. Not gonna happen!!! So we have to adjust, I guess.

    Grayton Beach can just be thankful for the state park to the east and the conservation area to the west.

    Always looking forward to the next visit to Gratyon....until we can live there forever. We'll be back Easter week with a house full of teenagers. We'll have our annual sunrise service on our dock overlooking Western Lake, a beautiful experience. Stop by.
     
  8. kurt

    kurt Admin Staff Member

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    Thanks!

    We are very lucky to have our parks, and a gulf front or lake front porch is nice every now and then.

    I like to imagine how I'd do it if I were king. At least I can be king of the board. :floor:
     
  9. RiverOtter

    RiverOtter got any pics?

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    :bow:
     

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