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Amelia Bluff Update

The Amelia Bluff administrative law hearing ended Wednesday evening after three days of intensive testimony and a public comment session Monday evening. Amelia Tree Conservancy, the Nassau County Sierra Club Group and Conserve Amelia Now! had made an administrative law complaint that the City of Fernandina Beach had violated state law and the City’s Comprehensive Plan in approving a 30-home residential development to be built on land designated as Conservation in the Future Land Use Map. The property is one of the City’s last remaining significant remnants of maritime forest and borders Egans Creek Greenway. The “bluff” is actually one of the two relic dunes along the edges of the Greenway that form the spine of the island and provide significant protection from storm winds and flooding. These dunes are also part of the cultural legacy of Amelia Island.

According to Robert Apgar, attorney for the three local organizations, the next steps are:

  • A written transcript of the hearing will be prepared within the next 30 days.  
  • After the transcript becomes available, attorneys for the plaintiffs, the City and the developer will have ten days to present briefs that summarize the evidence presented during the hearing.  
  • The administrative law judge, E. Gary Early, will have 30 days to render a decision.  

Summing up the three days, Mr. Apgar stated that “We are pleased with the conduct of the hearing. We presented all our evidence, our expert and fact witnesses, our exhibits.  We are confident we made a very strong case to support our complaint that the city violated state law and its own Comprehensive Plan in approving the residential development on Conservation land.”

The standing witness representing ATC in this hearing was board member Arthur Herman. The standing witness for Sierra Club was Julie Ferreira. Our expert witnesses included Sean McGlynn, ecosystem management and water quality expert; Rebecca Jetton, land use and planning expert; Robert Prager, civil engineer, value engineer, water resources engineer and GIS expert; and Munsell McPhillips, environmental and ecosystem restoration expert.

Although CAN! was ruled by the judge to lack “standing” to join the legal action, the newly formed organization continued to play a role in the hearing. The City and developer successfully petitioned the judge to prevent CAN! from being a litigant because it was not a legal entity as of April 16 when the city commission voted to approve amending the City’s Future Land Use Map from Conservation to Residential. Created in March, the organization was incorporated on April 30. Our legal team appealed this decision to no avail. 

The success of this venture rests squarely on the support provided by members of the three organizations and the community. The plaintiffs’ legal team included, in addition to Apgar, a land-use attorney based in Tallahassee, three local volunteers:  attorneys Al Laub and Victoria Wilson and paralegal Pam Green. Members of all three organizations and other community members presented Monday evening. Among them were Margaret Kirkland, Ron Sapp, Robert Weintraub, Chuck Oliva, Joanne Bean, Diana Herman, Laurie Hemke, Margaret Davis, Tayve Neese, Betsie Huben, and Tammi Kosack. A number of other volunteers provided an array of support. It is, of course, the donations of the members of these organizations that enabled us to move forward with this case. 

All three organizations greatly appreciate the support of our members and many others in the community in this effort. It is critical that we persuade City staff to focus on long-term planning for the environmental, social and economic sustainability of the island. Loss of our tree canopy is a threat to all three types of sustainability. 

Land Conservation Recommendations: The Short Report

The attached report and maps present several approaches that Fernandina Beach could utilize in developing goals and strategies for land conservation. The purpose of this effort is to identify environmentally sound lands that can function together to provide canopy and wildlife habitat on our island. There has been extensive pressure from Fernandina Beach Commissioners to narrow the original longer list provided to Commissioners and City staff in the Spring.

This list represents only a small portion of the parcels that should be conserved on Amelia Island. Needless to say, the rapid pace of development is a major factor in identifying starting points in this process. And that is what this represents—starting points.

If there are parcels that you feel should be conserved, please let ATC or the City of Fernandina Beach Planning Dept. know. Please consider the ecological status and viability of the parcel, the canopy and whether the parcel is contiguous to other properties that have been or could be conserved.

 

SHORT LIST MAPS          SHORT LIST RECOMMENDED PROPERTIES

ATC 2017 Activities

The following examples provide an overview of ATC activities in 2017:

  • Updating our website and communication tools to improve our communication with members and donors. (ameliatreeconservancy.org)
    • Our site includes an events page and blog.
    • We’ve set up a MailChimp account for email blasts and distribution of Newsletters.
  • Planting several Live Oak trees in Egans Creek Park; watering all of the oaks planted in the park
  • Working on the revision of the Nassau County AI tree ordinance:
    • Serving on the Nassau County Planning & Zoning Board working group.
    • Providing written and oral input on multiple drafts.
    • Meeting with Taco Pope, Mike Mullin, Shanea Jones, Munsell McPhillips & AIPCA
  • A campaign to persuade the School Board to sell the Citrona Rd. property to the City for conservation rather than to a developer. North Florida Land Trust was active in this activity.
    • Multiple written and telephone attempts to meet with the Board and Superintendent
    • NFLT campaign to raise funds to purchase property
  • A campaign to promote public response to the Army Corps of Engineers call for public comment on development of the wetlands at 14th & Lime. The developer now has multiple hoops to jump through.
  • An effort to urge Fernandina Beach to include conservation in its 2018 budget, to return the conservation position for Parks & Rec to the budget and plan for a master’s-level position for the Planning Department for 2019.
  • Distribution of Tree City USA Bulletin 55, “How Trees Can Retain Stormwater Runoff,” to Fernandina Beach and Nassau County Commissioners, relevant boards and committees, and key employees.
  • Submit recommendations to Nassau County regarding the Amelia River to Sea trail.
  • Sponsored Munsell McPhillips’ presentation, “The Secret Life of Trees: Living in a Maritime Forest”:
    • Delivered as the kickoff event for the spring series of lectures at the Plantation through the support of AIPCA.
    • We have repeatedly attempted to get this presented for the Fernandina Beach commissioners.
    • We are currently creating a video based on this lecture.
  • Attended and spoke at numerous City and County meetings.
  • Public Awareness Group (Terri Dean, Mark Dean, Shelly Nordlinger, Janet Chatfield, Berta Arias):
    • Speaking to organizations: spoke at Rotary Club Oct. 6
    • Booths at the Farmers Market: fall date cancelled post-Irma, but have a spring date
    • Created magnets, rack cards & posters
    • Available for meetings and HOA/community presentations
  • Advisory Committee members:
    • Munsell McPhillips has been working with the Nassau County Director of Planning and Economic Development on the revision of the Tree Protection and Replacement Ordinance and other County improvements. She often provides expertise to the Steering Committee and is in the process of converting her presentation, “The Secret Life of Trees: Living in a Maritime Forest,” into a video.
    • Robert Prager provides expertise to the Steering Committee as needed.
    • Dave Holly has provided support and expertise on i-Tree research.
    • Phil Scanlan has been developing campaigns related to trails and removal of vines smothering our trees on A1A.
    • Betsie Huben has organized her community to fight the construction of the NexTower cell phone tower and has been providing information to the Steering Committee.
    • Lyn Pannone volunteered at Wild Amelia & often speaks out in support of ATC efforts.
  • GIS Group (Maureen Goff & Harry Weisenborn) is working on using GIS techniques to identify remaining canopy on the island and environmentally sensitive areas that would help guide us in identifying prime properties for conservation, planting, etc.
  • Fundraisers:
  • “Tree Cruise,” April 23
  • The Giving Tree Campaign at the end of each calendar year
  • Events held by other groups or members to benefit ATC:
    • Celebration of the life of Tom Cote-Merow and his contributions to environmental causes on Amelia Island, Aug. 29.
    • Amelia Island Walk, created and organized by Amy Tompkins; originally scheduled for Oct. 7; to be rescheduled as a result of Irma cleanup
    • Color It Green Giving 2017, Laurie Moffitt
  • Awards (to be announced at 2017 annual business meeting on Nov. 9):
  • ATC Award for extraordinary service to our trees/canopy or to our organization:
    • Peg Lehosit for her Legacy Tree Project in Fernandina  Beach
  • Voice of the Island Award for extraordinary service to the environment of Amelia Island by speaking out orally, in writing or through photography.
    • MaVynee Betsch
    • Joan Bean
    • Munsell McPhillips

Voice of the Island

On Tuesday, Aug. 29, ATC participated in a Celebration of Tom Cote-Merow’s life. Tom was an individual with many interests who contributed to this community in many ways, but he was a strong voice for the environment on Amelia Island. In reflecting on his contributions, ATC was inspired to create a new award, the “Voice of the Island Award,” which recognizes and celebrates the contributions of our neighbors who have spoken up for the well being of Amelia Island, using their voices, pens or cameras. While ATC focuses its efforts on the trees of Amelia Island, all elements of the environment are interconnected and interdependent, constituting an integrated whole. Recipients of this award will be those who have contributed greatly to the effort to protect our unique Amelia Island environment. The first honoree was Tom Cote-Merow. We need for everyone to speak out to our city and county commissioners as Tom did.

Normally, this award will be presented annually in our end of the year business meeting, which is usually held in November. Our other award is presented to those who undertake remarkable efforts to save our canopy and those who serve ATC in remarkable ways.

Tree Care

Prior to storms 

  • Have tree professionals remove all broken, dead, weak and diseased limbs. Otherwise, in most cases, the less pruning the better, particularly as the tree becomes mature.
  • Occasionally, it may be advisable to shorten some limbs to reduce stress on the tree, but this should be done only on a limited basis by a professional.

Pruning

  • Don’t just leave broken limbs ragged because it invites disease and pests.
  • Every broken limb should be clean cut an inch or two from the collar.
  • If the leaders–the main trunk(s)–are broken off, a professional arborist should assess the individual tree based on its age, health and condition. Sometimes you can remove a broken leader and if the tree is healthy and relatively young, a new branch will take over the lead.
  • It’s difficult to replant a tree if it’s over 3 inches caliper unless you have a professional do it.

Planting new trees

  • Plant the right tree in the right place. Consult the guidelines provided by Arbor Day Foundation (www.arborday.org/trees/rightTree.cfm) and FPL (www.fpl.com/RightTree).
  • Refer to the planting guidelines linked the Activities section at the bottom of our Resources page (www.ameliatreeconservancy.org)

Whom should we rely on for tree expertise?

Tree companies often try to persuade us that our trees need to be pruned, whether they do or not. They also often tell us that they have an arborist, even though their “arborist” has no real credentials. These are not the individuals we want working on our precious trees. Loss of trees can be expensive in terms of lost property value and higher energy costs. Replacing trees can also be quite expensive.

The credentialing organization is the International Society of Arboriculture (www.isa-arbor.com). This organization offers several levels of credentials, some of which are quite specialized. The most common and basic credential is ISA Certified Arborist. The highest-level credential is ISA Board Certified Master Arborist.

Amelia Island Walk Rescheduled

Amelia Tree Conservancy Amelia Island Walk, originally scheduled for October 7, is being postponed due to IRMA. We need to allow time for the paths and route to be cleared. Thank you for your continued support. We hope that you, your family, and homes were safe during Irma.

Please email atompkins@anypumpkin.com with any questions.

Nassau County Amelia Island Tree Protection and Replacement Ordinance POSTPONED

The working group set up by the Nassau County Planning & Zoning Board has drafted an updated tree ordinance for Amelia Island, called the Tree Protection and Replacement Ordinance. You will find this document attached. We encourage you to

review the document and provide your input at the public hearing that will be rescheduled soon (This event was originally scheduled for Sept. 21, 7:00 at the County Governmental Complex in Yulee, but was canceled because people in the county are coping with the impact of Irma.)

The working group was comprised of individuals representing various interests on Amelia Island and input was constantly sought from various additional stakeholders, including developers, the Plantation, Amelia Tree Conservancy, the City of Fernandina Beach, HOAs, etc.  ATC was also represented on the working group.

In our view, this ordinance represents a major step forward in terms of updating and strengthening our current ordinance. There are a few modifications we would like to see. We would prefer to include permitting for all residents cutting trees of the size specified in the ordinance, and we would prefer no exemptions for residences outside of the Resort Overlay District. Of course, we would also prefer that no number of palms be equated with shade trees. On the whole, however, it is a dramatic improvement. If it is passed, we will continue to work with the county on further improvements.

This ordinance is also a major step forward in terms of developing one unified ordinance for Amelia Island since a number of aspects of the ordinance are based on that of Fernandina Beach. In our view, some aspects of this ordinance are improvements over the Fernandina Beach tree ordinance, and we will try to persuade Fernandina Beach to match those improvements.

It will be interesting to see how our community responds to this draft. We hope you will participate.

For more information please click on the PDF below:
ATC Tree Protection Ordinance

Jacksonville Makes Progress on Supporting its Tree Canopy

We know that Jacksonville values its trees based on the Emerald Necklace of parks around the city and the fact that organizations like 10,000 Trees and Greenscape of Jacksonville have planted thousands of trees in the city. However, the city had to be sued in 2014 to spend the money collected from development for trees. Now, that case has been resolved. The Times-Union on July 27 (“City Council postpones final vote on term limit referendum,” p. B-6) reports that the city will:

  • Hire an urban forest manager and arborist
  • Pass stricter tree conservation rules
  • Make several changes to better track how the tree conservation money is spent
  • Create a tree commission to oversee the health of Jacksonville’s tree canopy

All of these points except for the one addressing financial management should look extremely familiar to the Fernandina Beach City Commission and Community Development Department as well as to the Nassau County Board of County Commissioners, Planning and Zoning Board and Department of Planning and Economic Opportunity. These are measures Amelia Tree Conservancy has been urging the City and County to adopt every year since 2013, and we continue to support these measures. With such dramatic loss of our canopy in our fragile coastal environment, the need has become urgent.

Amelia Tree Conservancy

www.ameliatreeconservancy.org

savethetrees@ameliatreeconservancy.org

Citrona School Board Letter

Amelia Tree Conservancy urges the Nassau County School Board and Superintendent to terminate their agreement to sell the property east of Citrona. The School Board property on Citrona should remain undeveloped and protected by a conservation easement. This outcome will be to the advantage of the City and all parts of the County, which depend on strong income from property taxes on Amelia Island. Further, it is to no one’s advantage to deprive future generations of their heritage and birthright. In its ecological and storm water management contributions to the county, this property pays for itself. 

North Florida Land Trust has received a matching grant of $250,000 from a member of our community. North Florida Land Trust, Amelia Tree Conservancy and the Amelia Island community will work to raise the funds to conserve this property.

Why is it important to leave this property undeveloped?

  • This property is perhaps the best example of mature maritime forest on public property in the City of Fernandina Beach.
  • Conservation is important for future generations: It constitutes part of their education. It is part of their heritage and birthright. 
  • A conservation easement is essential to secure the conservation.
  • Conservation is critical in terms of quality of life on Amelia Island. The trees on this property protect us from: 
    • Temperature extremes
    • Wind damage in storms
    • Flooding from storm water runoff: the city will need to construct highly expensive storm water management infrastructure that the taxes cannot cover
    • Further degradation of Egans Creek as a result of chemical runoff
  • Conservation is critical in terms of the stability of the economy

    • If canopy loss continues at the current pace, we will soon be at a point where we will no longer be able to attract tourists or residents, like so many other communities around our coasts who have destroyed their environments and devastated their economies in the process.

What are the benefits of the trees on this property?

Perhaps the strongest reason for conserving the Citrona School Board Property under discussion is the benefits the City and island reap annually from the trees on this property. To quantify these benefits, we utilized i-Tree (www.itreetools.org), a state-of-the-art and peer-reviewed software suite initially released in 2006 by the USDA Forest Service. These tools were the result of a collaborative effort involving the US Forest Service, the Arbor Day Foundation, the International Society of Arboriculture, Davy Tree and Casey Trees. The following data demonstrate the contributions of the trees on this property and our loss in developing the property.

  • Benefits of the trees on this property: Based on i-Tree Canopy (www.itreetools.org), these trees:

    • Air quality & CO2:
  • Remove 25.25 lbs. of Carbon Monoxide annually
  • Remove 94.16 lbs. of Nitrogen Dioxide annually
  • Remove 922.94 lbs. of Ozone annually
  • Remove 46.9 lbs. of Particulate Matter of less than 2.5 microns annually
  • Remove 28.61 lbs. of Sulfur Dioxide annually (we are an EPA nonattainment area for SO2)
  • Remove 308.18 lbs. of Particulate Matter greater than 2.5 microns and less than 10 microns annually
  • Sequester 115.18 tons of Carbon Dioxide in the trees annually

The total value of this air quality improvement and reduction of carbon dioxide on this property is $4,603.90 per year.

  • CO2: The trees on this property store 1,864.75 tons of Carbon Dioxide within the trees themselves. This cannot be converted to an annual rate. The value of this carbon dioxide storage is $65,742.51.
  • Storm water runoff: Based on i-Tree Design (www.itreetools.org). The most common trees on this property are Laurel Oaks (approximately 240), Water Oaks (approximately 185), Live Oaks (approximately 151) and Loblolly Pines (approximately 25). A measurement was taken for an average tree of each type, and the capacity for storm water runoff interception was calculated based on this average tree.
    • Laurel Oak: 11.8” DBH average intercepts 2,189 gallons of storm water annually; 240 Laurel Oaks intercept 524,360 gallons annually
    • Water Oak: 11.8”DBH average intercepts 2,752 gallons of storm water annually; 185 Water Oaks intercept 509,120 gallons annually
    • Live Oak: 11.8” DBH average intercepts 2,771 gallons of storm water annually; 151 Live Oaks intercept 418,421 gallons annually
    • Loblolly Pine: 29.6” DBH average intercepts 8,092 gallons storm water annually; 25 Loblolly Pines intercept 202,300 gallons annually
    • Total: The 601 trees listed have the capacity to intercept 1,654,201 gallons of storm water annually.

ATC at Wild Amelia’s Eco-Expo!

Wild Amelia’s Eco-Expo (May 20) is a fabulous community environmental fest. We always love it! Lots of fun and challenges for the kids. Opportunities to chat with residents and visitors about the state of our canopy on Amelia Island. This event gets better every year and is a statement that Amelia Island cares about the future of our environment and believes that we should be much more aggressive in saving it. Thanks, Wild Amelia!!

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