Policy & Legislature Committee Report 2006 07-28

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on: August 25, 2006, 12:57:18 PM
Policy Committee Report
July 28, 2006

To: FNPS Executive Committee for Mtg. 7/29/06
From: Co-chairs Annie Schmidt and Kim Zarillo
Date: 7/28/06

The policy committee is getting organized and working on a few activities listed below:
   Organizing a committee operational structure ( when and how we can best meet and what tasks committee members are willing to do)
   outreach to potential committees members
   existing policy committee activities and methods of getting them accomplished
   timing of issues and responses
   developing a five year policy action plan

In the interim, Annie and I had a conference call with Shirley to discuss some items brought to the Society that needed immediate attention. A summary of each item and our recommendation to the board is provided next. Information sent from Karina and sources used for background are noted.

Hometown Democracy Referendum
We recommend that a brief statement about the petition and a link to the referendum webpage be given to members on the FNPS web page, the Sabal Minor, and to chapters who may decide to sponsor it and/or share information in their newsletters. While some may feel the referendum is  worth supporting we believe the FNPS mission statement is more restricted to native plants and plant communities and the proposed referendum is very broad in scope. The Paw Paw Chapter of FNPS has endorsed the petition drive see http://www.floridahometowndemocracy.com/

A petition to place a statewide referendum on the fall 2006 ballot to allow citizens a vote on local comprehensive plan amendments in hopes that it will help achieve better growth management. Organizers of the petition asked FNPS to endorse the referendum.

Babcock Ranch
We recommend to the board that the Society remain impartial in the Babcock Ranch project. It is a growth management issue that FNPS could be involved in if the merits were greater than the project. However, we agreed that it is in all likelihood a better outcome (density and on site preservation) than would be allowed if it where done piecemeal. There isn't a consensus among legal experts as to whether it still requires a DRI or not. The week of July 24, 2006 the Sierra Club settled their law suit with the developer to limit sprawl by placing the development on one side of the highway instead of on both the north and south sides of the highway.

Background  (Taken from TNC press release email and a Statement By Dick Cuda President Of Babcock Florida Company about the history of the sale, the proposed development, and the Sierra lawsuit.)
The 91,500 acre Babcock Ranch has a vast amount of land in its natural state. The Babcocks arranged for State ownership of the 45,000 acre Babcock Webb Preserve. The FL legislature approved purchase of 70,000 acres of the Babcock Ranch on May 5, 2006 for $310 million dollars that will come from the Forever FL fund (Signed by Gov. Bush in June 2006).  The Babcock family reasons for selling –Tax laws are so onerous that the family cannot and will not sell the land. Only the stock of the Babcock Florida Company is available from the Babcock family shareholders.  Population growth and development pressures would inevitably divide up the land into separate developments all over the ranch. So, once again, the Babcock family sought to have the State of Florida purchase the Babcock Florida Company stock to gain ownership and public control of all 91,500 acres of the Babcock Ranch land and its enterprises. However, the State of Florida said it was prohibited by law from purchasing the stock of a private company and could not afford to acquire the land at the amount required to give the Babcock family a fair price and also pay the onerous corporate tax which might result.
So, after years of trying, all efforts for public and public/private acquisition failed and ended. The family was then approached by scores of developers. None of them had any plans to preserve the ecosystem which the Babcocks had kept intact. Then along came Syd Kitson, who had the financial backing and skill set to purchase the company stock at the price and terms the family could accept.
Equally important, Syd Kitson had a vision, like the Babcock family, to preserve most of the ecosystem intact in its natural state. The Babcock family members agreed to sell their shares of stock of the Babcock Florida Company to the Kitson group.
For a solid year since that agreement, Syd Kitson and his team have worked every day almost around the clock to create a financially feasible plan for the future of Babcock Ranch that everyone could embrace. Citizens and governmental officials were consulted in Lee and Charlotte Counties and in Tallahassee. Through this long process of public input and approval, a plan developed for clustering a self sufficient, self-sustaining "new town" in less than 20% of the total ranch at the Southwest corner so the State and Lee County could purchase 80% (74,000 acres) of the most pristine natural ecosystem and complete the public lands corridor from Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico where 28 endangered species of wildlife nest, rest, feed and breed.
The "new town" as designed in this workable plan is absolutely essential to provide the economic engine to make possible an affordable sale price of the land to the State and Lee County, in addition to the funds necessary for new roads and schools and public infrastructure, creating a supply of affordable housing and paying the purchase price to the Babcock family shareholders and taxes.
 If the "new town" proposed by Kitson and currently approved could not be developed and marketed, another developer would, in the alternative, surely scatter development all across the natural landscape and fragment the ecosystem forever. The Sierra Club's challenge to the Kitson plan for the preservation of the bulk of the Babcock Ranch is disappointing because that organization did not actively participate in the process to create the Kitson plan and facilitate State ownership of 74,000 acres of the Babcock Ranch, yet it has brought an administrative proceeding which appears to be designed to spoil the transaction at this late date. The recently signed Babcock Preservation Act and the State's appropriation of $310 million for purchase of 80% of the Babcock Ranch, tie the State funds to the approval of the Kitson plan.
This administrative proceeding, initiated by the Sierra Club, and any appeals that follow seriously jeopardizes the availability of these funds to bring into State control 80% of the Babcock Ranch. The Kitson plan, which has been endorsed by Lee and Charlotte counties, and championed by Governor Bush as well as the vast majority of the State's other environmental organizations, is the last opportunity to preserve the bulk of the Babcock Ranch and avoid fragmented development of the property.
We continue to support the legislatively-approved Kitson plan, but time is running out. We urge the Sierra Club to withdraw its appeal so the Babcock Ranch will not be subdivided and developed.  By idea that stopping the Kitson plan will mean the State could purchase any or all of the land is badly mistaken and untrue.  If Mr. Kitson and his partners are unable to move forward, Babcock Florida Company has a back-up offer from a developer, and the opportunity for public purchase will be gone forever.

Tosohatchee Reserve (The Reserve)
Per Kim I have asked Walter Taylor to provide the language for our request and forward it to Shirley for transmittal.  He knows the park better than anyone. I think Shirley’s statement is too vague.
Shirley sent a letter on behalf of FNPS to FW stating the membership concern about possible changes to the Reserve and requested consideration regarding management.
7/28/06 Per Karina- Gerri Linsay with the FWC left a message today stating the FL cabinet approved the transfer and that a cap on hunting days will be written into the lease.  It is not clear whether the cap will be the existing number of hunting days that exist now or a different number of days as the cap. Because of our earlier written concerns, she has asked if this will suffice for the concerns we raised and invited us to comment on if we would like any other information added.  The catch is everything will be finalize/deadline for comment is August 1st. 
*Shirley:  Do you have an official statement?
*My recommendation from earlier correspondence would be to answer with the following:
The major concern of the Florida Native Plant Society is that the balance between protection of natural resources and recreational activities and their correlating intensity can too easily be changed in the future.   The Florida Native Plant Society recommends that you can incorporate a written commitment in regards to the management of the land to maintain the natural resources in their current or improved state and a commitment to maintain the current balance of recreational uses into the lease/official record of the transfer.

The issue is the transfer of Tosohactee Reserve management from the oversight of Florida Parks to FWC. The move is perceived by FNPS members as a threat to the future land management priorities of the Reserve for ecological function versus for the purposes of game and hunting.

Big Bend Development
We recommend that either Karina or we (Kim) contact 1,000 Friends of Florida to find out what they may be doing about this development and then make a decision as to how we would proceed. Developing through an aquatic preserve should be a concern for the Society. We can also post the related news articles on the policy committee link. The Society may want to join the efforts of 1,000 Friends of Florida or the Wildlife Federation. This may be a good issue to request Earthshare dollar support.

7/06 Per Karina The "Big Bend Development" refers to a proposed development called "Magnolia Bay" in Dekle Beach (300 miles East of Pensacola) in an area called 'Boggy Bay'.  I was keeping track of this because it has state wide governmental policy changes potentially at stake.  The development proposes a 7-foot-deep channel 2 miles long and 100 feet wide through the Big Bend Seagrass Aquatic Preserve, the state’s largest aquatic preserve (and one of the largest stretches of uninterrupted sea grass in North America).   
In order for this development to move forward as proposed, government officials need to make variances and agree to change the existing aquatic preserve area definition.(per Kim aquatic preserves are state jurisdiction not local variance- this may need correction)  Taylor County must change the rural zoning. The water district and the Army Corps must permit developing the wetlands of a "preserve" area, and the governor and Cabinet will have to approve the channel.

Groups such as 1,000 Friends of Florida, the Florida Wildlife Federation and the Sierra Club oppose it. Recently, Causey and some friends stood at the Dekle Beach boat ramp and collected more than 200 signatures on an anti-marina petition.

I have attached (3) articles pertaining to this issue.

Genetic Breeding and Native Pants
At this time we recommend no action until further research.

GEAC is an organization that is studying and publishing the negative impacts of cross-hybridization of genetically altered plants with native plants.  The proposal for the agenda is to support this organization with a $100 membership.

SR 20 - Fowler's Prairie
We would like Karina to contact the local chapter to see if anyone can review the site plan.

SR 20 - Fowler's Prairie:  This issue regards the proposed 4-lane widening of SR20 between Hawthorne and Interlachen (in the area of Fowler's Prairie and Little Orange Creek Ecosystem preserve) and the impacts to the hydrology and water quality.  There is no opposition to the road widening only that it be planned and implemented with scientific data and master planning so that the preserve is not impacted but actually can enhance the hydrology of the wet prairie. Several environmental entities just want to make sure that the project happens properly.
« Last Edit: November 05, 2007, 02:22:38 PM by Karina »
Karina Veaudry

Joan B

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Reply #1 on: August 27, 2006, 09:16:24 AM
Thanks for the report Kim & Annie and Karina,

The letter from Mr Cuda (Babcock Ranch) is very one-sided.

He leaves the impression that the Sierra Club was wrong to have sued. I think we need to post the letter/email from Frank Jackalone so our members understand that side of the story. They were able to secure some good concessions that we applaud.

I have many more opinions on this issue! but that's it for now. Joan

Joan B

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Reply #2 on: February 23, 2007, 12:27:14 AM
Here is a summary of the Babcock deal written by Frank Jackalone. Thought FNPSers would appreciate hearing the other side of the story. Regards, Joan

The following summary was compiled by Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club Senior Regional Representative, who co-signed the settlement agreement with Syd Kitson, Gail Giles and Clarke Keller.  It is not a verbatim summary, but condenses terms from a 28 page document.  For a copy of a PDF of the full document, please send a request to frank.jackalone@sierraclub.org.
Summary Babcock Settlement
Here are the major provisions of the settlement agreement reached on July 19, 2006 between developer Syd Kitson and his partners with the Sierra Club, Inc., and individual petitioners Gail Giles and Clarke Keller of Charlotte County, Florida.
All of the requirements in the agreement are permanently binding on Kitson and his successors.  They represent new commitments and improvements to the Babcock Ranch Overlay District which Kitson made to the Sierra Club in exchange for the Club’s withdrawal of its Administrative petition filed against Charlotte County’s Comprehensive Planning Amendments relating to development at Babcock Ranch.  Together these changes contain significant environmental improvements and requirement for the new community that in many ways are unprecedented in Florida.
Wildlife protection
1)       New Wildlife Corridor - 2000 acres will be set aside through a new conservation easement for creation of a large wildlife corridor in the northern section of Kitson’s lands.  The agreement removes all 1600 homes from this area and transfers them to the urban section of Kitson’s new city.
2)       Wildlife Crossings - No less than 4 Wildlife underpasses will be built primarily where interior collector roads cross waterways and flow-ways.
3)       Regional Wildlife Corridor Study - Kitson will provide funding in the amount of $100,000 for a regional wildlife corridor study which will governed by a committee consisting of Sierra Club, Kitson & Partners, Lee and Charlotte Counties and other environmental groups.
4)       Wildlife Protection from night traffic - Speed limits on interior collector roads will in most cases be reduced by 10 miles per hour at night.
Limits on the impacts of development
5)       Water Impacts
a.       Fertilizer - Deed restrictions will require homeowners and businesses to use controlled-release fertilizer for all established lawns and will largely prohibit use of fertilizer during the summer rainy season.  The use of fertilizer containing urea nitrogen will be banned.
b.       Water Supply – Water conservation features will be required in all homes and businesses.  Native plants, particularly, drought tolerant species will be used in all common areas and encouraged for homeowners and businesses. Kitson will also establish a reuse water system for the entire development.
c.       Sewage - Kitson will provide a tertiary wastewater treatment for the entire Babcock Ranch Overlay District. This system will remove phosphorous, nitrogen and biological contaminants from treated water with the goal of no discharge of harmful nutrients into the landscape or water bodies.
d.       Pesticides - Kitson will use biological controls to reduce mosquitoes instead of pesticides.  Aerial spraying shall not used unless County and State regulators deem that pesticides are needed to suppress a mosquito outbreak which threatens the health and welfare of the residents.
e.       Stormwater treatment – The stormwater treatment system will rely on a combination of ponds, filter marshes, created wetland treatment systems and wetland buffers.
6)       Sprawl impacts
a.       Road design – Kitson and the Sierra Club agree to advocate for the creation of a new expressway connecting I-75 with Babcock Ranch with a design that includes no additional intersections.  This expressway would serve to create a quick, easy path for traffic between Babcock, Fort Myers, Punta Gorda and other cities on Southwest Florida’s Gulf Coast.  It will also keep that traffic off of two-lane roads such as State Road 31, County Road 78 and State Road 74,
b.       Buffers - For those portions of Babcock Ranch along State Road 31 and County Road 78 Kitson shall create a buffer of 250 beyond the ultimate road right of way.  There shall be no commercial development or commercial signs on this buffer, which will be planted with native vegetation.
7)       Energy impacts
a.       Green building standards – Kitson shall seek to attain Green Development Certification and will ecourage builders with the community to adhere to standards set by the Florida Green Building Coalition.
b.       Energy efficiency – Kitson will require builders to achieve at least a 10% reduction of total energy use for a standard home and will set a goal to have his builders meet a 30% energy reduction over the standard home using the 2006 federal Home Energy Rating System index.  At the Sierra Club’s request, the Florida Solar Energy Center has offered to provide free technical support and assistance to Kitson and his builders to achieve this goal.
c.       Recycling – Kitson shall include a comprehensive recycling program for the Babcock Ranch Overlay District, including a curb-side program.
8)      No future increases - Kitson and his successors will not request any future increases in density above current levels authorized by Charlotte and Lee County.
9)       No sale or transfer - Kitson will not sell any excess density units to any other landowners and developers and will not convey or transfer any density off-site.
10)   No precedent for other developers - At the request of Kitson and the Sierra Club, Charlotte County approved a proclamation on Thursday, July 20, 2006 stating that the sale and preservation of Babcock Ranch is a unique circumstance and that it does not set a precedent for future comprehensive plan changes.