Ten (10) Things To Know About Land Planning in the State of Florida

by Rosa Eckstein Schechter

For those interested in developing land in Florida or otherwise investing in Florida real estate, it's important to know that the State of Florida is in the process of changing and reforming how land planning, land conservation, environmental protection, and real estate development is handled by both state and local governments.  Statewide reforms have gutted much of the state control over land regulation (for more, check out the ebook in the left sidebar). 

Today, the State of Florida owns and oversees management of approximately 3.8 million acres of uplands. This acreage includes 500,000 acres of conservation easements. Almost all of this state land is used for either recreation or conservation purposes, uses that are constitutionally protected by the Florida Constitution in perpetuity. 

When the State of Florida decides that a parcel of land is no longer needed by the State, the land is first offered as a lease to state agencies, state universities, etc., and if they decline, then the first offer to sell the land is made to local governments.  If those local governments don't buy the tract, then the State will offer the property up for public sale or bid.

Here are 10 things that remain true today for those interested in Florida land and real estate:

  1. Florida has over 3.8 million acres of conservation land, leased by the Division of State Lands (Division) to state agencies or local governments to oversee and manage as things like parks, preserves, forests, or recreation areas.
  2. The Florida Division of State Lands also leases non-conservation lands to state agencies and local governments for things like college campuses, state prisons, and government office buildings.
  3. Land use or land management plans are legally required for uplands under lease from the State of Florida and for both conservation and non-conservation lands.
  4. Land use requirements will not require the same thing under Florida law for conservation and non-conservation land. 
  5. There is a one year time period for conservation property to have a land management plan submitted (from time of lease) and approval may be needed by the Department of Environmental Protection, a Florida water management district, the Florida Natural Areas Inventory and/or the Division of Historical Resources, and the Division of State Lands. 
  6. Land management plans for conservation lands in Florida must meet Florida Statute Sections 253.034(5) and 259.032(10), and agency rule requirements.  For non-conservation land,   land use plans must be submitted on a Division form (if you're smart, it's not an absolute requirement).
  7. Many changes in land use or management activities, especially those that are included in ARC’s list of approved Interim Management Activities or additions to the Optimum Planning Boundary, may be allowed without any review by ARC or by posting on the ARC website as a minor plan amendment. More substantive changes must be presented to ARC at a regularly scheduled meeting. 
  8. Land Management Plans for parcels over 160 acres must be presented to the Acquisition and Restoration Council (ARC) for their recommendations.
  9. Land Management Plans for parcels less than 160 acres may use a form that was developed by the Division.
  10. Most of the state’s conservation lands are managed by the following state agencies:
  • Florida Forest Service
  • Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)
  • DEP's Division of Recreation and Parks (DRP)
  • DEP's Office of Greenways and Trails (OGT)
  • DEP's Office of Coastal and Aquatic Managed Areas (CAMA)
  • In addition, Florida’s five water management districts collectively own more than 1.5 million acres, which are managed to protect drinking water supplies as well as provide outdoor recreation opportunities:
  • Northwest Florida Water Management District (NWFWMD)
  • South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD)
  • Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD)
  • St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD)
  • Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD)

It is St. John's River Water Management District that is currently considering selling off surplus land to private buyers, as discussed in our earlier post on Tuesday.  Whether or not the other WMDs will follow St Johns' lead is being debated, but given their cash-strapped situation these days, it seems likely that surplus land sales to the public will be considered in the near future. 

Source:  Florida Department of Environmental Protection


Written by:

Rosa Eckstein Schechter

Eckstein Schechter Law on:

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