Collier County
FL

Action Item
10608

Recommendation to approve the Conservation Collier Future Acquisition Strategies document. (Summer Araque, Conservation Collier Program Coordinator)

Information

Department:Parks & RecreationSponsors:
Category:11 County Manager's Report

Executive Summary

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

Recommendation to approve the Conservation Collier Future Acquisition Strategies document.

 

 

OBJECTIVE: To obtain the Board of County Commissioners (Board) approval of the Conservation Collier Future Acquisition Strategies document.

 

CONSIDERATIONS: During the May 28, 2019 Board meeting (Agenda Item #11C), the Board requested staff to bring an Acquisition Plan to the Board in advance of their review of the Conservation Collier Re-establishment Ballot Language. During the meeting, the Board discussed the item and agreed to have staff develop an acquisition strategy. The Board approved the item with the understanding that staff would review each of the Commissioners’ comments and work towards including them into a future strategy.

 

The feedback provided during the May 28 meeting from the Board included:

1.              Build on existing Conservation Collier preserves and enhance current acquisitions:

The maps in Appendix C illustrate any potential acquisition lands adjacent to existing Conservation Collier preserves. Additionally, Figure C-2 identifies these areas as Priority 1.

 

2.              Not enough preserves in an urban area:

Any potential acquisition land in the Urban area has been identified on the maps in Appendix C. Additionally, Figure C-2 identifies these areas as Priority 1.

 

3.              Provide public access.

 

4.              Evaluate whether there are any existing properties that are not viable:

Staff did not find that there are any existing properties that are “not viable.”

 

5.              Evaluate whether “Acquisition of Development Rights and not fee-simple purchases” could be a possible Conservation Collier strategy:

This comment is addressed under the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program section below.

 

The Conservation Collier Future Acquisition Strategies document was drafted by staff during the months of June and July 2019. The Conservation Collier Land Acquisition Advisory Committee (CCLAAC) subcommittee reviewed and approved the document in August 2019. The document was reviewed by the full CCLAAC in September 2019 and by the CCLAAC Outreach subcommittee in October 2019. A final review by the full CCLAAC was made on October 14, 2019. The document was named “Future Acquisition Strategies” by the CCLAAC.

 

The Future Acquisition Strategies document is being provided primarily as a decision-making tool for the Board and voters of Collier County. This document provides an “inventory” of potential acquisition lands to guide the Board in finalizing the Ballot Language for the November 2020 election. The Ballot Language to reestablish funding for further acquisition of conservation lands through the Conservation Collier Program is scheduled to be reviewed by the Board during their December 10, 2019 meeting.

 

It is important to note this Future Acquisition Strategies document is a high-level evaluation of lands within Collier County that have the potential to be developed and are possible for future Conservation Collier acquisition if they remain undeveloped. This is one tool to use when deciding where to focus efforts during potential future Acquisition Cycles. As noted in the document, here are some important considerations for the public and decision-makers:

 

·              Conservation Collier is a willing seller program.

·              Priorities for acquisition shall be based on the criteria as set forth in the Conservation Collier Implementation Ordinance.

·              Any lands not specifically identified on the Potential Acquisition Lands Map are not excluded from consideration for acquisition. Any property within the County can be nominated or any property owner within the County can apply during an Acquisition Cycle.

·              Identification of property on the map does not guarantee inclusion within potential Acquisition Cycles, nor does it indicate that the property qualifies. The acquisition is dependent on many factors, including Conservation Collier Ordinance Criteria and funding availability. Ranking of properties for consideration will be done with each Cycle.

 

The desktop GIS evaluation performed by staff does not include whether the land is planned for development or available for sale or whether the landowner is interested in selling.  The evaluation indicates which lands are currently undeveloped based off of aerial interpretation and provides the CCLAAC and Board a range of options for where they would like to focus acquisition efforts during future Acquisition Cycles. In addition, it provides an estimate of the remaining undeveloped lands to determine where potential acquisition funding could be spent in future acquisition cycles.

 

History

In the past, acquisition planning has been done on a cycle by cycle basis, starting with Cycle 1 in 2003. After Cycle 8 was completed in 2010, no further cycles were contemplated as land acquisition funds were limited. In fiscal year 2013, Conservation Collier acquisition operations were formally phased out and accumulated reserves were moved to the Conservation Collier Management Trust Fund to manage the preserves.

 

Prior to most previous acquisition cycles, the CCLAAC proposed outreach areas and the Board approved by resolution properties to target for acquisition. Letters were sent to these property owners to determine if they were willing sellers. This process will continue for potential future cycles.

 

Rural and Family Lands Protection Program

During the May 28, 2019 Board meeting it was requested to consider “moving towards an acquisition of development rights and not fee-simple purchases.” Further clarification provided to staff indicated that this would be a conservation easement program similar to the State of Florida’s Rural and Family Lands Protection Program (RFLPP). Staff has researched this Program and received information from the Florida Forest Service, the agency that administers the RFLPP. A summary of the program and its’ costs have been provided in the attached Supplemental Information to the Future Acquisition Strategies Document.

 

A program similar to the RFLPP is not consistent with the Conservation Collier Implementation Ordinance and therefore would require the ordinance to be amended. The RFLPP has spent a total of $94,324,923 for conservation easements over 53,538 acres. As a result, the average RFLPP per acre conservation easement across the State of Florida is $1,761 per acre. The RFLPP makes offers based on appraised value, which can vary depending on comparable sales, project location, rights the landowner has retained, etc. The program can only go as high as 90% of appraised value.

 

Collier County has 148,461 acres of land in farms; 102,552 of those acres exist within the Rural Lands Stewardship Area (RLSA). The RLSA has an existing conservation strategy that is no cost to the public. If the Board chooses a similar conservation easement program, it is suggested that Stewardship Sending Areas (SSAs) should not be considered, as these areas have been utilized for the generation of Stewardship Credits in exchange for the elimination of one or more Land Use Layers.

 

The CCLAAC reviewed the Supplemental Information to the Future Acquisition Strategies Document. CCLAAC does not recommend that Conservation Collier include a Conservation Easement program (similar to the Rural Family Lands Protection Program) within the Conservation Collier Program.

 

FISCAL IMPACT: The Fiscal impact for developing the Future Acquisition Strategies document was limited to staff time and supplies. If Conservation Collier land acquisitions proceed it is assumed that funding will be provided by a voter approved funding referendum and that any maintenance reserve monies utilized for acquisition will be restored by the voter approved funding or failing that, restored by General Fund sources.

GROWTH MANAGEMENT IMPACT: Fee-simple acquisition of conservation lands is consistent with and supports Policy 1.3.1(e) in the Conservation and Coastal Management Element of the Collier County Growth Management Plan.

 

LEGAL CONSIDERATIONS: While the proposed acquisition plan is not legally required it may serve as a planning tool to guide the Board’s future acquisitions. Whether to proceed with an acquisition plan and its contents is a Board policy decision. The proposed acquisition plan is consistent with the Conservation Collier Implementation Ordinance and provides that priorities for acquisition shall be based on the criteria as set forth in the ordinance.  As such, this Item is approved for form and legality and requires a majority vote. -JAB

 

CCLAAC RECOMMENDATION:

Acquisition Document

CCLAAC unanimously approved the Future Acquisition Strategies document to move forward to the Board.

Rural Family Lands Protection Program

CCLAAC does not recommend that Conservation Collier include a Conservation Easement program (similar to the Rural Family Lands Protection Program) within its’ Program (Vote 5-1).

 

STAFF RECOMMENDATION:

Acquisition Document

That the Board of County Commissioners approves the Future Acquisition Strategies document.

 

Rural Family Lands Protection Program (RFLPP)

A program similar to the RFLPP is not consistent with the Conservation Collier Implementation Ordinance, therefore staff does not currently recommend such a program. However, if the Board chooses to implement a conservation easement program similar to the RFLPP, staff requests that the Board:

1.              Direct staff to work with the CCLAAC and related subcommittee to amend the Conservation Collier Ordinance in advance of the November 2020 Election to outline the details of such a conservation easement program.

2.              Decide how much of the Conservation Collier pending referendum funding shall be allocated for such a program.

3.              Identify what types of agricultural property to target for conservation.

 

Prepared By: Summer Araque, Principal Environmental Specialist, Conservation Collier Program Coordinator, Parks and Recreation Division

 

Discussion