Policy Priorities and Positions
2022 State Legislative Priorities
Florida Forever and Florida Wildlife Corridor
We urge the legislature to continue to increase funding for Florida Forever and the Florida Wildlife Corridor; last year’s funding was $400 million. It is an important investment for future generations and quality of life. Land conservation to protect our fragile natural resources ultimately saves taxpayer money
Funding for Rural and Family Lands Protection Program
Agriculture in St. Johns County has a long and storied history and leads the state in the production of potatoes and cabbage. According to the latest UF/IFAS statistics, St. Johns County natural resource industries have an overall impact of more than $171 million annually and provides 22.8% of all county jobs. It is imperative for the legislature to protect our family farm land. This county is one of the fastest growing in the state which further endangers precarious farm land. The program has received little to no funding in the last few years and family farms need state help to protect agriculture land.
Reduce Septic Tank & Sewer Pollution to Protect Florida Waterways
Florida is nothing without its springs, creeks, rivers, lakes and seas. Water is our invaluable natural resource and we must protect this vital heritage. Yet, leaking septic tanks and aging sewer systems, especially in St. Johns County, are polluting our waters and causing unnecessary harm. We urge the legislative delegation to support increased funding for septic-to-sewer conversions and updating of sewer systems. Furthermore there are under utilized technologies, among others, like vacuum sewer systems which transport sewage in partial vacuum piping to a vacuum collection stations, thus reducing the potential for leaks. Funding for Preservation Agricultural Land
Support legislation to assist counties in the purchase of “Development Rights” which will ensure farmland will remain in permanent agricultural use and reduce regulations restricting farmers’ ability to market products. Agriculture has been a vital economic contributor to St. Johns County, yet the acreage devoted to agricultural crops is rapidly declining.
Funds for Expansion of St. Johns County Public Transit System
Support legislation that will increase funds to the Transportation Trust and oppose efforts to divert funds from the trust fund. The county’s growing population dictates expanding public transportation to employment areas and collaborate on more regional routes.
Protection of Local Government Revenues and Statutes
Oppose any legislation which would further erode local governments from capturing revenue in the form of ad valorem values, impact fees, concurrency compensation and user fees. This revenue is critical to provide necessary programs and services for residents and to meet unfunded mandates.
Local governments should be allowed to regulate Short-term and Vacation Rentals and Plastics
Opposes any legislation which preempt cities and counties from regulating short-term and vacation rentals because local governments know what is best for their communities. Local control is best when it comes to the ability to enact local zoning provisions to ensure quality of life of its citizens, including the use of plastics.
Open Meeting Exemption for Economic Development Purposes
Opposes efforts to so broadly amend Florida’s Government in the Sunshine statute to allow local governments to meet and deliberate in private on economic development issues. These amendments as currently proposed could allow almost any non-residential development proposals to be negotiated in private without public disclosure and input. This exemption should be more narrowly cast to apply only to those rare instances where confidentiality is adequately justified by findings, and that these findings are publicly disclosed prior to any official action on the subject matter being taken.
Program funding for the Vilano Beach/Ponte Vedra Beach Trail
Supports funding for the completion of the pre-construction engineering for the initial phases of the multi-use Vilano Trail/Ponte Vedra Trail along State Road A1A between the City of St. Augustine. Vilano Town Center and Ponte Vedra Beach.
Support Meaningful & Comprehensive Legislation to Further Limit Water Pollution
Enact legislation and increase funding to address the sources of nutrient pollution, especially from septic tanks, biosolids, sewage spills, fertilizer and other runoffs which seep into groundwater and water tables. Nutrients are widely recognized as the major driver of algae proliferation.
Sea Level Rise Infrastructure Funding
Support funding to assist coastal communities in assessing vulnerabilities and risks associated with sea level rise and help develop plans and approaches for mitigation.
2021 County Priorities
Future of our County -- Visioning Process
The Roundtable recommends that the Commission embark on a process to seek community input on the future of the County and set a strategic and comprehensive plan and then stick to it. That way developers, builders, realtors, the community and county staff will be able to have clear direction on the future of our County.
Support an Increase in the Bed Tax
Support a 1% increase in the bed tax. St. Johns County has one of the lowest bed tax rates in the State of Florida. In March 2019, the Commission rejected a 1% increase to the “Tourist Development Tax”. The increase was supported by the Roundtable, the Visitors & Convention Bureau, Tourist Development Council, Chamber of Commerce and several business lodging leaders. Visitors should help pay for the services they use when they are here.
Reconstitute this vital conservation program at its last funding level of $300,000. Most of our neighboring counties have had conservation programs for some time. If SJC ever hopes of getting state Florida Forever funds in the future, it will need local matching funds. ECO-Tourism Our County is rich in ecology and beautiful natural resources that are attracting many visitors. We believe that eco-tourism should be emphasized and that appropriate personnel and resources be devoted to eco-tourism.
May 2020: Amendment to Articles IV and XII of the St. Johns County Land Development Code
The St. Johns County Civic Association Roundtable supports the County's adoption of an ordinance imposing fines for unauthorized tree removal or land clearing with the following recommendations:
1. Southern Live Oaks (Quercus virginiana) should be added to the species of tree assessed with higher fines for specimens 2 inches and greater along with Sand Live Oaks (Quercus geminata) Southern Red Cedars (Juniperus silicicola).
2. The area in which Sand Live Oaks, Southern Red Cedars and Southern Live Oaks are considered Protected Trees for species over 2 inches should be expanded to include areas west of the Intracoastal Waterway to Interstate I-95.
3. The fines assessed for all categories of unauthorized tree removal should be doubled to more accurately reflect the actual cost of purchasing replacement trees and serve as an effective deterrent to unauthorized tree removal. Click here for more information:Rationale for above Protected Tree Removal Recommendations
As proposed, the Protected Tree Removal ordinance does not include the Southern Live Oaks (Quercus virginians). The prevalence and significance of the Southern Live Oak in our county warrants its protection. It is only fitting that the country's oldest city is also home to an over 600-year old Live Oak, the Old Senator tree, an historic landmark and its oldest resident.
2. The area of jurisdiction should be expanded to include lands west of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) to the boundary of I-95. County land west of ICW is critically important for its hammocks, wetlands and wildlife habitats. The draft ordinance would not have covered the unauthorized clear cutting of trees on Gun Club Road as objected by Commissioner Blocker late last year.
3. The tree fines for all categories should be doubled to act as a greater deterrent to unpermitted tree removal and to more accurately reflect tree replacement costs. St. Johns County fine structure should be competitive with neighboring counties to be effective. For example the fine for clear cutting in Duval County is $50,000 per acre and the proposed fine for St. Johns County is $30,000 per acre.
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