This week's crime report for Clay County Florida, provided by the Clay County Sheriff's Office.
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – While still in an exploratory stage, the Board of County Commissioners and North Florida Land Trust continued to examine ways to create and fund a conservation lands program …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – While still in an exploratory stage, the Board of County Commissioners and North Florida Land Trust continued to examine ways to create and fund a conservation lands program during a special workshop Tuesday morning. Commissioners heard several proposals on funding the project, including a slight increase in the millage or electric rates. They also examined the priorities for the conservation project.
Since nobody knows how much money will be raised or how much real estate and interest rates will be when the program may be implemented in late 2025 or early 2026, BCC and NFLT said it’s necessary to create a blueprint.
“It’s now or never,” said NFLT President and COO Allison Defoor. “Whatever moves we make now or don’t make now will affect our grandchildren.”
A .1 mill increase will generate $29.3 million in the next 20 years, and it will cost each homeowner about $30 a year in taxes, but NFLT hopes to raise nearly $59 million.
“That’s a couple pizzas a year,” said NFLT Director of Conservative Acquisitions Ramesh Buch.
Commissioners expressed the value of protecting more land through purchases and easements, they said it would require a plan that voters will approve. Since the county can’t increase the sales tax, voters must approve a referendum during the general election in 2024.
“Land conservation is a nebulous term,” commissioner Mike Cella said. “We need to nail that down a little more.”
The county also is struggling to keep up with rapid growth. With more than 10,000 homes already approved for the Lake Asbury area, land trust officials said it’s more important now to protect conservation areas before they’re all gone.
Commissioner Kristen Burke said money for conservation can’t come out of the current budget.
“We don’t have all of that money, no matter what people think,” she said. “We barely balanced the budget. Either something’s got to give or we have to raise it from somewhere else.”
The land trust also identified seven conservation values and asked commissioners to identify their priorities. All five board members were given 10 stickers and they were asked to place stickers on areas they think were the most important.
Protecting endangered species was first with 12 votes, followed by protecting drinking water with 11, access to recreation areas with 10, connecting programs with neighboring counties and protecting surface water with 8 each, protecting historical and cultural areas with 6 and protecting farms and forest areas with 5.
The North Florida Land Trust is a nonprofit that is committed to protecting natural places in Clay, Duval, St.Johns, Baker, Nassau, Putnam and Flagler counties.
“We aren’t talking about land at the intersection of (State Road) 16 and 21 that costs $40,000 an acre,” Buch said. “We’re talking about remote areas where land costs $2,000-$4,000.”
The BCC pushed the project forward and decided the next step would be a series of public meetings to get more input.
“This is a political process,” Defoor said. “If we all play well, it will lead to a good outcome.”
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