Beach preservation projects capped
Some resident members of the South Ponte Vedra and Vilano Beach Preservation Association have been actively working on beach restoration solutions for the north barrier island for 14 years. The County Commission on March 19 addressed three separate agenda items for solving and funding beach restoration and preservation.
After four hours, the commission added a surprise last-minute agenda item, declaring a state of emergency for Porpoise Point. The ocean began flooding into the community, causing county Public Works crews to work for days dumping truckloads of concrete structures and sand to block the water from continuing onto the roadway and adjacent homes.
Jason Herrera, who at the Commission meeting represented the Army Corps of Engineers, said the emergency declaration allows the Corps to take sand from the channel at no cost to the county and to do a survey to see where to take sand from, most likely the navigation channel, and to institute a continuing authorities program (CAP). It would also be eligible for a Florida Inland Navigation District Waterways Assistance Program (WAP).
Damon Douglas, county Public Works Department, presented information on the two restoration efforts. First, he discussed the dune restoration project for 269 parcels on South Ponte Vedra Boulevard. This is a one-time effort providing 20 cubic yards of sand per linear foot, funded 50 percent from FDEP Hurricane Matthew funds, a Municipal Service Taxing Unit (MSTU) on oceanfront residents of 4.0 mils over 10 years or less if the project is accomplished, and the remainder with county funds.
The second is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project for 116 parcels on Coastal Highway — a 50-year renourishment project with full beach restoration, a 60-foot berm extension and dune restoration. As a critically eroded area, this is eligible for FDEP and federal cost share from the USACE, plus MSTUs from oceanfront property owners of 0.5 mils for the life of the project and a county funds remainder.
The county would be responsible for design and permitting and establishing erosion control lines, obtaining easements and building parking improvements for the USACE project to obtain a greater percent funding match. Property owner surveys resulted in a high percentage of acceptance for MSTUs to be levied. The commissioners voted in favor of participating in both projects, which were forecast to begin late 2020 to early 2021.
In order to help funding of beach renourishment, Tara Meeks, the county’s director of tourism, outlined a proposed ordinance to change the Tourist Development Plan and reallocate tourist development tax (TDT) revenues for purposes of allocating funding for an additional category of use. It would affect the tax on short-term rentals of living quarters or accommodations. The county’s current “bed tax” rate is 4 percent. In FY 2012, the county collected $6.9 million. The county is anticipated to collect $13.2 million in FY 2020. This greater than anticipated growth presents an opportunity to reallocate this tax without reducing dollars to existing categories. A proposed new category is Tourism Assets, which would include beach renourishment, boat ramp improvements, sports and recreation facility improvements, arts and cultural facility improvements, and land acquisition for tourism amenities. In FY 2020, $2.3 million would be available to new Category V.
At the same time, Deputy County Attorney Regina Ross presented a proposed ordinance to impose an additional 1 percent Tourist Development Tax to 5 percent, to assist in funding beach renourishment. This is currently under the Leisure and Recreation category, which provides for, in part, “beach park facilities, beach improvement, maintenance renourishment, restoration and erosion control.” If the 5 percent is agreed to, there could be the creation of an additional category for beach restoration and management, and the revenues for the extra 1 percent put into the new category, or alternatively for the additional 1 percent to go into the Leisure and Recreation category.
The BCC board, with a super majority required, voted against increasing the bed tax. Therefore, a fifth category will be re-allocated.
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