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Meadows Rezone Wetland Destruction

Click here to download the Sarasota County Meadows Rezone Staff Report


Chairman Paul Caragiulo March 1, 2017

Sarasota County Commission

1660 Ringling Blvd.

Sarasota, FL  34236


Re: Rezone Petition No. 15-27, Meadows Planned Unit Development


Dear Chairman Caragiulo:


ManaSota-88, Inc. objects to Rezone Petition No. 15-27, Meadows Planned Unit Development and recommends that the Sarasota Board of County Commissioners find the proposed change not consistent with the intent, goals, objectives, policies, guiding principles and programs of the Comprehensive Plan 

ManaSota-88, Inc. (hereinafter, "ManaSota-88") is a public interest conservation and environmental protection organization which is a Florida not-for-profit corporation and a citizen of the State of Florida. The corporate purposes of ManaSota-88 include the protection and preservation of water quality and wildlife habitat in Manatee and Sarasota Counties. ManaSota-88 is a citizen of the State of Florida pursuant to section 403.412(5), Florida Statutes. 

ManaSota-88 and its members will be substantially and adversely affected by the conditions and activity, which will result if this rezone is allowed. 

ManaSota-88 objects to Rezone Petition No. 15-27 for the following reasons: 

1. Sarasota County's Environmental Protection Division office states the petition is inconsistent with Chapter 2, The Environment, of the Comprehensive Plan, including the guidelines for protecting Freshwater Wetlands found within the “Principles for Evaluating Development Proposals in Native Habitats”. 

2. The two native wetlands located on the Kobernick parcel have been designated as a “preserve area” during a previous sector plan adoption and previous rezone petition. Prior development approvals for the collective property have previously demonstrated reasonable use while preserving these on-site wetlands consistent with the Comprehensive Plan requirements.

3. During the adoption of Sector Plan 83-11-SP, the Kobernick wetlands were designated a preserve area in a manner consistent with Chapter 2 of the Comprehensive Plan and the “Principles for Evaluating Development Proposals in Native Habitats”.

The Environmental Protection Division Consistency Review states: 

Kobernick Parcel: The Kobernick parcel was included in Sector Plan 83-11-SP, which identified wetland habitats that were to be protected within its boundaries. Rezone petition 86-46 was approved by Sarasota County Board of County Commissioners (Board) in 1986 and included stipulations for the protection of the wetland habitats within the boundaries of the Kobernick parcel. These stipulations carried over into the Site and Development Plan approval for the site that protected the wetland habitats. During each of these planning and development approvals, the wetlands were designated a preserve area in a manner consistent with the Comprehensive Plan, the Land Development Regulations (LDR) and the “Principles for Evaluating Development Proposals in Native Habitats”. 

EPD staff has not been provided sufficient evidence from the Applicant at this time demonstrating that the Kobernick parcel portion of the subject petition meets the criteria for impacting a wetland found within the Comprehensive Plan’s “Principles for Evaluating Development Proposals in Native Habitats” (Chapter 1, The Environment). 

4. During the adoption of Rezone 86-46, the Kobernick wetlands were designated a preserve area in a manner consistent with Chapter 2 of the Comprehensive Plan and the “Principles for Evaluating Development Proposals in Native Habitats”.

After the Sector Plan was adopted a request for a rezoning of the property was reviewed and approved in 1986 for the Kobernick parcel. Rezone 86-46 also included two stipulations that directly addressed the protection of the wetland systems found on this parcel. Below are the stipulations found within the adopted rezone for the parcel: 

5.2  Plans for maintaining the hydro periods of the two Wet Prairies must be provided to the Department of Natural Resources management for the review and approval at the preliminary plat or site and development plan phase of the development. 

5.3  A fringe of existing wax myrtles shall remain as a buffer around the Wet Prairies. 

Following the rezone in 1986, a Site and Development plan was review and approved by Sarasota County that identified the wetland habitats on site as preserve areas while facilitating the development of the property as it currently exists today. 

The Applicant is proposing to remove both wetland systems from the property to expand development of the site. To accomplish this, the Applicant is requesting a waiver from stipulation #10 and #11 of the Sector Plan 83-11-SP along with seeking a new rezoning of the property to change the BDCP and to remove Rezone 86-46 stipulations 5.2 and 5.3. 

5.The Applicant has states that the two native wetlands located on the Kobernick parcel have become degraded. The degradation of these wetlands appears to be a clear violation of the wetland protection requirements of the 1983 Sector Plan and the 1985 rezone requirements to maintain these wetlands.

An applicant that has minimal Uniform Wetland Assessment Method (UMAM) scores indicates the applicant has not been a good steward of their wetlands. 


The Applicant should not be rewarded for having degraded wetlands regardless of whether they were degraded during the time the Applicant owned the property or the wetlands were degraded at the time of purchase of the property. 


ManaSota-88 questions whether the Applicant has knowing or unknowingly violated federal, state or local protection provisions for wetlands.


Restoration to historic wetlands or enhancement of degraded wetlands should be preferred over mitigation. 


6. The Applicant has not demonstrated that the Kobernick wetlands are no longer capable of performing environmental functions and values. The Applicant and staff agreed that the Kobernick wetlands exhibit good functionality.

The Environmental Protection Division Consistency Review states: 

The wetland systems on the Kobernick site have maintained many of the values and functions, as defined above. It appears that past development approvals provided use of the parcel while protecting the values and functions of the wetlands on site. The current proposal seeks to impact 100% of the native habitats on-site. EPD staff finds that the Applicant has not provided sufficient evidence at this time that demonstrates the Kobernick parcel portion of the subject petition meets the relevant elements of Chapter 1, The Environment, of the Comprehensive Plan. 

7. The Kobernick wetlands have a high degree of environmental importance for water filtration, assimilation of nutrients, floodwater storage and as refuge and habitat for a wide variety of species that rely on an urban environment. 

The Environmental Protection Division Consistency Review states: 

Additionally, wetlands provide many ecological services beyond wildlife habitat, including such services as flood control, erosion control, water filtration, assimilation of nutrients, ground water recharge, etc. Furthermore, such isolated habitats within the urban environment are becoming increasingly more important to both local and migratory species. At this time, Environmental Protection Division staff has insufficient evidence from the Applicant that demonstrates this portion of the petition meets the relevant elements of Chapter 1 Environment of the Comprehensive Plan. 

8. The Kobernick wetlands are isolated habitats within the urban environment, such environments are becoming increasingly more important to migratory species. 

Several studies demonstrate the importance of protecting isolated wetlands. 

- Kimberly J. Babbitt, George W. Tanner. Use of temporary wetlands by anurans in a hydrologically modified landscape. Wetlands. Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 313-322. 

- Seasonal, isolated wetlands of all sizes subject to hydrologic impacts provide valuable breeding areas for Anurans. This is because these types of wetlands typically exclude predatory fish (juvenile Anurans, tadpoles, don't get eaten by fish.) 

- Daniel L. McLaughlin and Matthew J. Cohen. 2013. Realizing ecosystem services: Wetland hydrologic function along a gradient of ecosystem condition. Ecological Society of America. Preprint. 

UMAM mainly quantifies biologic and habitat functions / value. Wetlands that have a low biologic value will still provide valuable hydrologic and chemical functions including floodwater retention, microclimate regulation, biogeochemical cycling, and pollutant removal. These types of functions are especially important in urbanized landscapes where people can directly benefit from these services. 

9. The Applicant incorrectly states there is no alternative that allows for reasonable development of the site without causing significant wetland impacts. The alternative is to build the project around the wetlands. This allows for a reasonable use of the property and establishes a balance of a variety of social, economic and environmental elements to achieve a sustainable and appropriate outcome. 

10. The Applicant is proposing to locate a wetland mitigation project on an existing Florida Power & Light easement. A Consent Agreement between the Applicant and FPL has not been submitted as a part of the Meadows PUD Rezone Petition No. 15-27.

The location and landscape support for a wetland mitigation project at this site is severely limited.  Any animal migration faces significant barriers to movement with no established wildlife corridors. Land uses outside the proposed wetland mitigation area would affect the function of the wetland as power lines adversely impact the beneficial use by wildlife. 


11. The proposed impact to 2.4 acres of Mesic Hammock and the impacts to the 50-foot watercourse buffer consisting of Mesic Hammock habitat that borders each side of Phillippi Creek of Site 6 of the 47th Street parcel Mesic Hammock is inconsistent with the Comprehensive Plan and is completely avoidable.

The Environmental Protection Division Consistency Review states: 


Section VIII. Mesic Hammock 2.b
“Mesic Hammock in required buffers and areas not approved for development shall be preserved. When mesic hammock habitat exists adjacent to wetlands or the top of bank of any watercourse, required buffers shall be a minimum of 50 feet wide. Impacts to other mesic hammock areas, may be allowed only if no significant loss of function to the balance of the hammock would be incurred. In such cases, up to 25 percent of the mesic hammock habitat on site may be removed
” 

Further, the Environmental Protection Division Consistency Review of the Mesic Hammock states: 

All Mesic Hammock habitat impacts are completely avoidable for this site while still allowing the proposed development if the southern access road from Hadfield Drive is not implemented. 

Additionally, The Environmental Protection Division Consistency Review of the Mesic Hammock states: 

All impacts to the watercourse fringing Mesic Hammock could be avoided while still allowing the development of the property. EPD staff finds that the Applicant has not provided sufficient evidence that demonstrates the 47 Street parcel portion of the subject petition meets the preservation requirements for Mesic Hammock habitat adjacent to watercourses.