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Posted by Cara in Orlando, FL on 6/18/2005

Jason and I received a letter from Orange County's Environmental Protection Division. They have completed the conservation area determination and classified our wetlands as Class II. This is better than class I, and cheaper to mitigate. Steve has a very good relationship with the county guy, Sheldon, and Steve had told us beforehand that it would likely be a II because it is a disturbed area, and on a retention pond rather than a true natural lake. We now need to send the county a letter saying we accept their determination.

After that, we need to get in contact with our surveyor and have him add the wetland line to the survey. Three copies of the survey will go to the county, and we will get two of them back. We must do this within ninety days.

Next, we begin the process of conservation area impact. The county EPD will send the survey to the state DEP, and alphabet soup will ensue... Just kidding... Seriously, they will talk it over, and Steve will have by this time prepared what he calls a "flexmap." With the flexmap, he will show that even though the property is mostly class II wetland, the middle half of the property is arguably the area that should be impacted, in order to leave the cypress stands intact. Even from the aerial photos, you can see that this is the case, but with the state, who knows.

Mitigation: I feel like the mitigation market is a local version of the stock market or something. It's up, it's down. Since we have begun the process, prices for mitigation on our property have been estimated at anywhere from 20k to 5k. Luckily for us, it's been a downward trend. My personal feeling is that this is because it's a case of a policy where the cart came before the horse (development, then conservation policy), so there's really no legal leg for mitigation charges to stand on. What needs to happen (for the best interest of the environment) is for all of the wetland decision-makers to get together, figure out one cohesive process and fee structure, backed up of course by policy research. Of course, this from a girl with an environmental conscience and a social policy degree. LOL.

What's actually going to happen is some sort of bargaining with a mutually beneficial outcome. The poor policy planning results in the process being highly negotiable and malleable, and it changes on a daily basis. Today, the going price for a mitigation "credit," which equates to 1/4 acre impact, is a steal at $5,000. My $5,000 will be used to preserve forever a quarter acre of land elsewhere. Last month, if you remember, it was a formula based on appraised price and it was simply a cash donation to the county for future purchase of public lands. Crossing our fingers that something major doesn't change the fee structure in the near future. Homebuilding is basically holding your breath and hoping for no:
policy changes
administration changes
natural disasters
market changes in construction

On to other topics... Designer plans any day now!!! SOOOOOO excited for this to happen, finally! Progress in leaps and bounds.


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