SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – As Central Florida continues to grow, some local leaders have said there’s land that should not be developed. Seminole County commissioners are considering two proposals to conserve natural lands.
“As Seminole county keeps growing — as Central Florida keeps growing — you have to find areas, large areas, for water recharge so that water is protected. It is conserved. It is going to be clean water,” said Commissioner Lee Constantine.
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At a meeting Tuesday, Constantine presented his suggestion to create a natural lands acquisition program called “Seminole Forever.” The program is modeled after the state’s “Florida Forever” conservation and recreation lands acquisition program.
“It has the same basic principles. One of them (is) to protect land use and water resources for future generations,” Constantine said.
Constantine said that much like the state’s program, “Seminole Forever” would establish a fund that would be used to acquire and improve properties. The county would then create a committee that would prioritize what land would be most valuable based on criteria like groundwater recharge.
Constantine added the money would come from multiple revenue streams already within the budget, and it could include other sources, such as donations, conservation easements and other tools to put land into conservation.
“We all want to conserve land. Everybody says it’s a priority, but every time we want to buy more, we ask the citizens to come forth and add new taxes to themselves to pay for it. Well, if it’s a priority, then we should find it within the budget,” Constantine said.
Constantine said conservation is a priority for the county and his constituents, noting that during the pandemic, the use of natural lands went up 700%.
He also mentioned that preserving lands supports the growing population, as land conservation is one of the best ways to protect our water resources.
“I think this is just a natural choice, and, you know, our monocle is the natural choice,” said Constantine.
Many people attending Tuesday’s meeting told commissioners that they want natural lands to be preserved in Seminole County, although they may differ on the means to achieve that goal.
Another proposal by a citizen group to the county commissioners asks them to let voters decide if they want to finance future natural land acquisitions. They want the county to place a referendum on the November ballot to ask voters for a temporary property tax.
The proposed ballot language is below:
Constantine said his proposal can finance natural land acquisitions without having to wait for a ballot measure this fall.
At the conclusion of Tuesday’s meeting, Constantine made a motion for the county to take the blueprint of the “Seminole Forever” plan he presented and draft an actual ordinance for the board to consider in the future. The motion passed, which advances the proposal to that next step.