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The Choice is Clear

The Choice is Clear
    It would not be responsible to protect property rights, while destroying wetlands. It also would not be responsible to protect wetlands, while destroying property rights. A Yes vote on Referendum A will protect wetlands that are already protected by the State while degrading private property rights. A No vote on Referendum A will continue State wetlands protection, while strengthing local private property rights. To protect both wetlands and property rights, the choice is clear. Vote No on Referendum A....

Grandpa, Tell Me About the Good Old Days

Grandpa, Tell Me About the Good Old Days
    Mirriam Webster defines Grandfather Clause as: Take a guess how many times the word Grandfather appears in the proposed Wetlands Ordinance.   Would you believe… 0   That's right!  No Grandfather Clause at all.   In fact, Sec. 32.004. of the proposed ordinance states, "This chapter applies to all development, as defined in this chapter, that may occur within Wakulla County." But, there are some exemptions… Sec. 32.011. – Exemptions. The following activities are exempt from application of this chapter: Development activities conducted in the following, so long as they were not constructed in wetlands or other surface waters and do not intercept an aquifer: artifically constructed waterbodies, including canals, lakes, and ditches that are not hydrologically connected to wetlands or other surface waters or are not a part of a government-approved mitigation plan; swales; stormwater facilities; gravel pits; stone quarries; or wastewater treatment lagoons. (2) Dredging and filling activities conducted within wetlands or other surface waters for which state and/or federal permits were issued for such purposes prior to the effective date of this chapter and which are still valid. (3) Bona fide agricultural uses and silviculture activities, as well as any activity of a bona fide farm operation on land classified as agricultural land pursuant to F.S. § 193.461, if such activity is regulated through implemented best management practices, interim measures, or regulations developed by the department of environmental protection, the department of agriculture and consumer services, or a water management district and adopted under F.S. ch. 120, as part of a statewide or regional program. (4) Vegetation maintenance and tree pruning or trimming of utility easements and rights-of-way by a utility company, so long as such activity conforms to all requirements of law. (5) Development within a wetland or other surface water which is smaller than 500 square feet in size or development within a buffer adjacent to a wetland or other surface water which is smaller than 500 square feet in size, provided the area in which the development will occur is not within the buffer of a wetland or other surface water that is 500 square feet in size or larger. (b) The requirements of this chapter shall not be applicable to development occurring adjacent to springs, karst features, or sinkholes, which shall instead be governed by Policies 13.1 through 13.12 of the...

Wetlands Question and Answer – Can I Rebuild My Home if it gets Destroyed?...

Wetlands Question and Answer – Can I Rebuild My Home if it gets Destroyed?
Question: If you have a home, let's say on the river, and it's destroyed by a hurricane or some other natural occurrence and you have to rebuild, if your home was less than 75 feet from the wetlands, can you rebuild in same place? Answer:  Here is the applicable section from the proposed ordinance.  Sec. 32.007. – Allowable uses. (a) The following uses shall be permitted in wetlands and other surface waters and buffers, provided they do not have an adverse impact on the wetland or other surface water. (1) Construction, repair, replacement or maintenance of docks, piers, boardwalks, observation decks, and other elevated walkways, used for water dependent activities, provided such structure meets the design standards contained in section 32.010 of this chapter, and so long as all applicable state and federal permits have been obtained prior to commencement of such activities. (2) The construction of private seawalls within an artificially created waterbody where such construction adjoins two existing seawalls not more than 150 feet apart. (3) Parks and recreation uses consistent with the purpose and intent of this chapter. (4) Conservation and preservation areas and nature trails. (5) Hunting, trapping, and fishing, environmental education, and scientific research where not otherwise prohibited by law, and consistent with the purpose and intent of this chapter. (6) Installation of boundary fences that do not alter the hydrology of the wetland or other surface water and which meet the design standards contained in section 32.010 of this chapter. (7) Removal of exotic invasive plants in a manner consistent with the design standards set forth in section 32.010 of this chapter. (8) Development activity for which the developer has received a valid development order from Wakulla County prior to the effective date of this chapter, so long as such development order has not expired or been revoked. (9)The renewal, improvement or alteration of 50 percent or less of any structure, so long as such renewal, improvement, or alteration remains within the same footprint as the original structure. (10)The repair or replacement of legally constructed structures damaged or destroyed by a natural disaster or fire, so long as such repair or replacement remains within the same footprint as the original structure. On the surface, it appears that replacement would be allowed in the wetlands or in the buffer zones as long as the...

Wetlands Question and Answer – I Don’t Own Any Wetlands...

Wetlands Question and Answer – I Don’t Own Any Wetlands
I received the following question from a citizen seeking clarification of the proposed Wetlands Ordinance.  I welcome the opportunity to share the truth! Question:  I don’t own any wetlands.  This issue doesn’t affect me personally.  Why should I vote NO? Answer:  This is a question that I hear quite often.  Consider this.  If Referendum A passes every property owner and tax payer in Wakulla County will potentially by affected in at least two ways. 1.  By potential lawsuits.  Wakulla County tax payers have already paid legal fees and settlement costs for law suits related to our first wetlands ordinance.  I covered this in a previous post that you can see by clicking here.    The Bert Harris Act, in Florida Statutes, states, “When a specific action of a governmental entity has inordinately burdened an existing use of real property or a vested right to a specific use of real property, the property owner of that real property is entitled to relief, which may include compensation for the actual loss to the fair market value of the real property caused by the action of government, as provided in this section.”   I covered the Bert Harris Act in detail in a previous post.  You can see it by clicking here.  2.  By  devaluation of land value.  If Referendum A passes, the proposed buffer zones will decrease the buildable area of lots that contain wetlands.  It will also   decrease the buildable area of many lots that do not contain wetlands.  For example, if you have no wetlands on your property but your neighbor has                     wetlands on his property, the 75 feet wetlands buffer may very well extend onto your property making that portion of your property unbuidable.  When we make land unbuildable or unusable, we decrease the market value of that land.  If we decrease the market value, we also decrease the County Taxable Value.  If we decrease the Taxable Value, the County will receive less tax revenue.  If the County receives less tax revenue a decision has to be be made to cut government services or increase taxes to maintain the current government services.  Both of these options will affect all Wakulla County Citizens. The risk I have described above does not currently exist in Wakulla County.  We eliminated this...

Was the Wetlands Petition Really About the Right to Vote?...

Was the Wetlands Petition Really About the Right to Vote?
Last year, the Wakulla Wetlands Alliance embarked on a petition drive to give the Citizens of Wakulla County the “Right to Vote”.  Were they being sincere when they told everyone this issue was about the right to vote or was that message chosen to convince voters to sign their petition?  Was it ever really about the right to vote?  Let’s take a look to see if their actions line up with their words. In the photo below, you can see their message. Now let’s take a look at what our County Charter says… To summarize, after the minimum number of petitions are obtained, the Board of County Commissioners had 2 choices: 1. Adopt the ordinance as referenced on the petition, which would take away the citizens right to vote on this issue. 2. Do not adopt the ordinance as referenced on the petition and allow the citizens to vote on the proposed ordinance. If the Wakulla Wetlands Alliance sincerely wanted the voters of Wakulla County to have the right to vote, wouldn’t it make sense that they would encourage the Board to approve option #2, Do not adopt the ordinance and give the voters the right to vote? Unfortunately, that is not what they did.  The vast majority of speakers encouraged the Board to adopt the ordinance and take away the voters right to vote on this issue. It turns out, the Wakulla Wetlands Alliance abandoned their “Right to Vote” message after the petitions were obtained. Thanks to 4 Commissioners, you still have the right to vote and I hope you will vote NO on Referendum A! You now know the truth. Your friends and family deserve to know the truth also. Please share this with everyone you know and please leave a comment below. See for yourself by clicking the link below!...

Tyranny in Wakulla?

Tyranny in Wakulla?
Merriam Webster defines Tyranny as:  Why is this important to Wakulla County?  In November, you will be asked to vote for or against a proposed Wetlands Ordinance.  The ordinance includes the following statement:  Sec. 32.016. Ordinance Modification or Repeal. This chapter may only be modified or repealed by a referendum of the voters in Wakulla County, as provided for in the Wakulla County Charter, or by a unanimous vote of all five Wakulla County Commissioners at a legally called Wakulla County Commission meeting. If the new ordinance is adopted and we later realize that it needs to be amended, all 5 Commissioners will have to agree to change it.  If one Commissioner refuses to agree with the others, that one Commissioner will possess the power to “Veto” the other 4 Commissioners. Even if you support the wetlands ordinance, do you think it is a good idea to elevate one Commissioner to have power over the other 4?  This will be equivalent to a Presidential Veto, with one major exception.  If the President of the United States vetoes a decision made by congress, congress can override the veto with a two thirds vote.  No member of the United States Congress has the power to veto the entire governing body.  No member of the State Legislature has the power to veto the entire governing body.  No County in the State of Florida has an ordinance with a  Tyranny Clause.  Wakulla County will be the first, if this ordinance passes.  Our Government is built on a system of checks and balances, not supreme power by a single individual.  Why would we give this power to a single Commissioner? This risk does not exist today.  A yes vote on Referendum A will create this situation in Wakulla County.  A NO vote on Referendum A will eliminate this threat. You now know the truth. Your friends and family deserve to know the truth also. Please share this with everyone you...

Wetlands Question and Answer – Can I Build a Dock?...

Wetlands Question and Answer – Can I Build a Dock?
I received the following question from a citizen seeking clarification of the proposed Wetlands Ordinance.  I welcome the opportunity to share the truth! Question:  If the new ordinance is passed, will I be able to build a dock on my property? Answer:  The proposed ordinance states: (1) Docks. The dock shall be located on the property at the point of least distance between the uplands and the open water body to minimize the intrusion into the wetland or other surface water. A dock shall only extend far enough to reach a maximum water depth of four feet below mean low water, so long as it does not extend beyond 20 percent of the width of the water body and have more than 500 square feet of over-water surface area in Outstanding Florida Waters or 1,000 square feet of surface area in waters not designated as Outstanding Florida Waters. If there is a vertical seawall along the shoreline and the water depth at the point at which the dock is constructed is already four feet below the mean low water line, the dock shall not extend more than 25 feet beyond the vertical seawall. The access walkway of a dock shall be no more than four feet wide. The terminal platform of a dock shall be no larger than 160 square feet. Boards or other opaque materials, if used to construct the surface of the dock, shall be no more than eight inches wide and be spaced at least one-half inch apart. Any part of the dock located over submerged or emergent aquatic vegetation shall be elevated a minimum of five feet above the mean or ordinary high water line. Most of these requirements sound acceptable right?  Carefully consider #1. “The dock shall be located on the property at the point of least distance between the uplands and the open water body to minimize the intrusion into the wetland or other surface water.”   On every piece of property, there is one spot of least distance between the uplands and the open water body.  That particular spot may be an acceptable location for a dock and everything will work fine.  If that particular spot is not the best location for a dock, an alternate location would not be allowed and the dock permit would be denied by Wakulla County, even...

King of Wakulla

King of Wakulla
What would you say, if someone proposed changing the Government structure in Wakulla County to give one Commissioner the power to control the other 4?  Would you vote for that?  Which one of your current Commissioners would you want to have this ultimate power? Would you believe it, if I told you we have a group of people in Wakulla County who want you to vote for this?  The Wakulla Wetlands Alliance wants you to vote to adopt a wetlands ordinance in November.  This proposed ordinance includes the following statement, “these regulations can only be modified or repealed by referendum vote or unanimous vote of the County Commission”. So imagine this.  If the new ordinance is adopted and we later realize that it needs to be amended, all 5 Commissioners will have to agree to change it.  At first that doesn’t sound too bad.  If all 5 Commissioners agree, chances are the change is truly needed right?  What happens if a change is truly needed, but one Commissioner doesn’t agree with the other 4?  In that situation, we no longer have majority rule or consensus rule.  We will then have a situation where one Commissioner has the power to control the entire board.  If the lone Commissioner refuses to reach consensus with the others, a referendum will be required to take the issue back to the voters. Even if you support the wetlands ordinance, do you think it is a good idea to give one Commissioner, power over the other 4?  This will be equivalent to a Presidential Veto, with one major exception.  If the President of the United States vetoes a decision made by congress, congress can override the veto with a two thirds vote.  No member of the United States Congress has the power to veto the entire governing body.  No member of the State Legislature has the power to veto the entire governing body.  Our Government is built on a system of checks and balances, not supreme power by a single individual.  Why would we give this power to a single Commissioner?  I don’t want it!  I don’t want my fellow Commissioners to have it and I don’t want future Commissioners to have it. This risk does not exist today.  A yes vote on Referendum A will create this situation in Wakulla County.  A NO vote...

Entire Wetlands Ordinance

Entire Wetlands Ordinance
It seems that everyone has an opinion about the new wetlands ordinance that will appear on the ballot in November.  I certainly do!  If you are a Wakulla County voter, your opinion, and the opinion of your neighbors will determine the fate of the ordinance and the future of our county.  I have attempted to do my best to breakdown this issue and share many of the key components of the proposal.  Several people have asked me how they can get a copy of the entire ordinance.  The proposed ordinance is almost identical to the prior ordinance with the addition of the following language: Sec. 32.016. Ordinance Modification or Repeal. This chapter may only be modified or repealed by a referendum of the voters in Wakulla County, as provided for in the Wakulla County Charter, or by a unanimous vote of all five Wakulla County Commissioners at a legally called Wakulla County Commission meeting. To View the entire proposed ordinance CLICK HERE! After you read it, please share your comments below....

Question and Answer – Wetlands Ordinance Modification...

Question and Answer – Wetlands Ordinance Modification
I received the following question from a citizen seeking clarification of the proposed ordinance.  I welcome the opportunity to share the truth! Question: If the ordinance is adopted and causes law suits to be brought against the County, I was told it could be changed with a unanimous vote of all 5 Commissioners.  Is this true? Answer: That is a great question, unfortunately, it is not completely true, because it does not tell the whole truth.  That statement was included on the petitions that were signed to place the ordinance on the ballot.  It also appears in the resolution that placed the referendum on the ballot, as follows: “Sec. 32.016. Ordinance Modification or Repeal. This chapter may only be modified or repealed by a referendum of the voters in Wakulla County, as provided for in the Wakulla County Charter, or by a unanimous vote of all five Wakulla County Commissioners at a legally called Wakulla County Commission meeting.”  Here’s the problem.  The Wakulla County Charter 6.1.2 states, “The Board of County Commissioners shall not amend or repeal an ordinance adopted by initiative prior to the next succeeding general election, without the approval of a majority of the electors voting at a referendum called for that purpose.” Therefore, if the ordinance needs to be changed for any reason, the Board of County Commissioner will have no authority to change it for 2 years, until the 2016 General Election.  Prior to this date, it can only be changed by a special referendum by the voters of Wakulla County.   The Wakulla County Charter, section 6.1 also states, “The electors of Wakulla County shall have the right to initiate county ordinances in order to establish new legislation that is not in conflict with the State Constitution, general law or this Charter…” So, language in the proposed ordinance will be in conflict with the County Charter.  This is yet another reason why the proposed ordinance is bad for Wakulla County.  It will bring risk and financial liability to our tax payers and our hands will be tied to correct it.  The best way to avoid this risk is to vote NO and encourage your friends and family to do the same. The risk I have described above does not currently exist in Wakulla County.  We eliminated this risk when we repealed the Wakulla Wetlands Ordinance.  A...

Quick Fact – Is the Financial Risk to Wakulla County Real?...

Quick Fact – Is the Financial Risk to Wakulla County Real?
By now, you may have heard me say that the Wakulla Wetlands Ordinance put our county at a financial risk of lawsuits.  This risk, along with my desire to protect property rights was the basis for my support of repealing the local ordinance.  My opponents, on this issue, do not posses the same commitment to property rights and they appear to be unconcerned about the financial risk they are inviting on Wakulla County Tax Payers.  I want you to know that the risk is REAL!  Below, you will find excerpts from the Florida Statute know as the “Private Property Rights Protection Act”.  I have included the most relevant sections for brevity and to communicate the basic idea.  To ensure that I am not accused of taking any part out of context, at the bottom of this article I have included a link to the entire statute.  All of my comments are in blue text.  The remainder is directly out of the Florida Statute. Section 70.001 of Florida Statute is referred to as the “Bert J. Harris, Jr., Private Property Rights Protection Act.” The Legislature recognizes that some laws, regulations, and ordinances of the state and political entities in the state, as applied, may inordinately burden, restrict, or limit private property rights without amounting to a taking under the State Constitution or the United States Constitution. The Legislature determines that there is an important state interest in protecting the interests of private property owners from such inordinate burdens. Therefore, it is the intent of the Legislature that, as a separate and distinct cause of action from the law of takings, the Legislature herein provides for relief, or payment of compensation, when a new law, rule, regulation, or ordinance of the state or a political entity in the state, as applied, unfairly affects real property. (2) When a specific action of a governmental entity has inordinately burdened an existing use of real property or a vested right to a specific use of real property, the property owner of that real property is entitled to relief, which may include compensation for the actual loss to the fair market value of the real property caused by the action of government, as provided in this section. (e) The terms “inordinate burden” and “inordinately burdened”: 1. Mean that an action of one or more governmental entities has directly restricted...

Wetlands Question and Answer – Beaches and Springs...

Wetlands Question and Answer – Beaches and Springs
Below, you will find questions I received from a concerned citizen.  I welcome all questions and I appreciate the opportunity to share the truth! Question:  So if the state is doing such a good job protecting our wetlands why are our beaches closed so often? Answer:  Wakulla County is unique.  More than 65% of our county is protected forest land. Forests contain wild mammals. Wild mammals poop in the forests. Poop contains bacteria, like Fecal Coloform and Enterococci.  Rain washes the bacteria into our bays. Our bays are shallow and situated in the “bend” of the pan handle.  This creates a pooling effect that does not quickly flush out our bays.  We typically see our beaches closed as a result of water quality after periods of heavy rainfall.  Heavy rainfall flushes everything in the forests into our bays.  While humans certainly have an effect on water quality, if they were the primary cause of poor water quality, we would see the problem more often.   Question:  Why are millions of our tax dollars being spent to restore our springs? Answer:  Some folks like to claim that the State, specifically the current administration, has no interest in protecting the springs.  If that was true, the Governor and Legislature would not be spending millions of dollars to restore our springs.  Lots of people live upstream from our springs with septic tanks that add nitrogen to the aquifer.  Tallahassee has a waste treatment spray field serving 250,000 people north of our springs that adds nitrogen to the aquifer. South Georgia contains large farms, that contribute nitrogen to our aquifer, that ends up in our springs.  The millions of dollars you reference have nothing to do with the buffers in the proposed wetlands ordinance.  The State is spending that money in an attempt to reduce nitrogen in our springs.  We all want to protect our wetlands.  We all want to improve the drinking water in our aquifer.  We simply do not need multiple layers of government to achieve these goals.  The most recent data shows the nitrogen in Wakulla Springs comes from the following sources: Septic Tanks 50.66% Atmospheric 12.86% Sinking Streams 10.50% Farm Fertilizer 7.61% Livestock 7.09% Waste Water Treatment Facilities 6.30% Urban Fertilizer 4.46% Source: http://floridaspringsinstitute.org/Resources/Documents/2014.08%20V3%20Wakulla%20Restoration%20Plan.pdf   Question:  Isn’t the most effective government the one closest to the people? Answer:  Yes, I...

Wetlands Question and Answer – State of Florida Reaction Time...

Wetlands Question and Answer – State of Florida Reaction Time
Below, you will find a question I received from a concerned citizen.  I welcome all questions and I appreciate the opportunity to share the truth! Question: When I’ve spoken to some who plan to vote yes in November they state that it is because the state fails to react in time before irreversible damage is done to the wetlands. They feel that having the county ordinance in place helps ensure the state doesn’t drop the ball. I’ve really haven’t heard many say they buffer needs to be 75 feet. Just that something extra needs to be there to ensure preservation of our wetlands. What are your thoughts about the citizen’s concerns about the state dragging their feet and that being the reason why a county ordinance is needed? Answer: Great question! This is a widespread real concern that many people have. None of us want to allow harm to the wetlands. I think the best way to answer your question is with a recent “real world” example. A few week ago, a complaint was called in about a Wakulla Citizen who was filling in wetlands on Shadeville Road, just south of Wakulla Springs. In less than 24 hours, I visited the site, unannounced, and found the following: a stop work order had been posted on site by the Wakulla County Planning Department, a staff member from the Wakulla Planning Department was onsite along with 4 State Inspectors from the Department of Environmental Protection and the North West Florida Water Management District. This clearly indicated that the State has the necessary resources and regulations to protect wetlands and is committed to enforcing these regulations. On the other side of this argument, I saw photos posted on Facebook of beavers in wetlands and excavation equipment filling in wetlands. These photos were posted with the announcement of this alleged “wetlands violation” even though the photos were taken somewhere else in the world. A concerned person would assume the photos were related to this incident and tend to be appalled. Unfortunately, this deception is not accidental, but it is the reason why good people are afraid to trust that the state is doing it’s job. Personally, when someone tries to deceive me for the benefit of furthering their agenda it’s not hard to come to the conclusion that I need to do the...

Quick Fact – Did you know the State regulates almost all changes to the landscape that affect surface water flows?...

Quick Fact – Did you know the State regulates almost all changes to the landscape that affect surface water flows?
You have been told that the State of Florida does not protect wetlands.  That is simply not true!  The State regulates “almost all changes to the landscape that affect surface water flows“. Did you know, even if a property contains no wetlands, it is still subject to State Wetlands Permitting if changes to the landscape will impact other properties?  This is more stringent than the proposed local ordinance and this State Wetlands Protection is already in place. A yes vote on Referendum A will add additional layers of Government Regulation. If a Wakulla Wetlands Ordinance is adopted, it can only be changed by a unanimous vote of all County Commissions or by another referendum of Wakulla County Voters. A NO vote on Referendum A will eliminate this threat. You now know the truth. Your friends and family deserve to know the truth also. Please share with everyone you know, by Facebook, email, and personal conversations. Also leave a comment below and share your thoughts. Click the image below to enlarge it or Click Here to visit the State Department of Environmental Protection...

Wakulla 9/11 Memorial Ceremony

Wakulla 9/11 Memorial Ceremony
      This morning, I had the pleasure of speaking at the 9/11 Memorial Ceremony.  My words fall short of the honor our First Responders deserve, but I did my best to communicate the appreciation and respect I have for them.  At the beginning of the Ceremony, a beautiful rainbow appeared above their vehicles. Here is a transcript of my speech.      I’d like for you to talk a walk with me, back in time. Today is September 11, 2001 8:45    am.  Just another peaceful morning, in New York City. One minute later, at 8:46, peace will  be shattered by the most evil attack ever perpetrated in the heart of our great nation.   Nearly 3000 people, from 93 nations, died that day.      2,753 in New York      184 at the Pentagon      and 40 more on Flight 93, 20 minutes outside of Washington DC.      341 firefighters and 2 paramedics from the New York City Fire Department      37 police officers from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department      23 police officers from the New York City Police Department      8 emergency medical technicians and paramedics      3 New York State Court Officers      And 11 unborn babies died that day who never had the opportunity to live Since the attack, more than 1,400 rescue workers have died. 1,140 first responders and residents of Lower Manhattan have been diagnosed with cancer This was not just an attack on the United States of America. This was an attack on humanity. This was an attack on innocent, peace loving people.      The rag tag group of terrorists who perpetrated this attack did not have the military might to face the United States of America on the battlefield. On this day, they intended to shake our confidence, spread fear throughout our nation and weaken our reputation as a Super Power on the World Stage. They failed to realize, the United States of America has never been, and never will be, shaken or defined by the intensity of those who rise up against us. The United States of America is defined by the grace of God and an overwhelming desire for freedom, secured by our Founding Fathers and handed down from generation to...

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