$37 Million to Protect Scrub Jay
Commissioner Sara Devos naively said, "We're going to be the first county I'm aware of to develop a countywide plan which is what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is pushing for, and I'm hoping as a result they will look upon us favorably."
The Fish and Wildlife Service's extortion plan will require private landowners to buy two parcels of non-scrub jay land for every one they want to develop. In addition, landowners must allow scrub jay inspection on their property and the county must buy 25 acres of land for every scrub jay family on county property.
Currently, about 40 property owners are unable to use their land
because of the bird problem and the County hopes it will be able to
provide relief to them by swapping land, offering land for mitigation,
or outright purchase of their property. It is estimated that mitigation
for existing scrub jay populations will cost $37 million. As usual,
no one knows whether the jays will actually benefit from the unreasonable
demands of the government.
Scrub jay relief comes to vote
Commissioner Sara Devos said she plans to push this week for a countywide mitigation plan, three weeks after a majority of the Charlotte County Commission showed support for the broad mitigation approach.
There are about 40 property owners who have been unable to develop their lands because of the presence of the threatened Florida scrub jay. The cost of mitigating for existing scrub jay lands throughout the county has been estimated at $37 million, which includes lands owned by the county.
The board has shown support of countywide mitigation so long as a funding source is identified.
"We're going to be the first county I'm aware of to develop a countywide plan which is what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is pushing for, and I'm hoping as a result (that) they will look upon us favorably when our team visits Atlanta," Devos said.
Private landowners must currently buy two parcels of non-scrub jay land for every scrub jay parcel they want to develop, and must pay to have their land reviewed for scrub jay presence.
Charlotte County-owned lands are mitigated by securing 25 acres of land for every affected scrub jay family on county property.
The vote on a Habitat Conservation Plan is scheduled on Tuesday during the regular agenda. The commission meeting will be held at 9 a.m. in room 119 of the Charlotte County Administration Center, 18500 Murdock Circle.
Also on Tuesday the board votes whether to approve immediate relief for the affected landowners with options like land swapping, offering lands for mitigation or the purchasing of the affected land by the county.
The relief, if approved, would be available to property owners who applied for building permits prior to March 23 and were held-up because of the scrub jay protection laws.
"We have to make sure the transaction is reasonably equitable," said Paul Payette, real property manager.
"The board is trying to help people who are stuck in this situation," said County Administrator Bruce Loucks. Loucks heads to Atlanta later this month.
In other business, the board votes whether to put on the November ballot an option to fund environmentally sensitive lands. Approval means voters would be asked to allow the county to take out a $50 million general obligation bond to purchase a variety of long-desired environmentally sensitive habitat.
To pay for the loan, residents would be taxed at $5 for every $100,000 of taxable, assessed value or $6.25 for those without the homestead exemption on a $125,000 property.
You can e-mail Allyson Gonzalez at email@example.com.
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