A conflict between the state and Clay County over a ban on
commercial development of wetlands has ended for now. But the
fight could resume next year.
County officials want to relax a restriction on non-residential
development of wetlands, which is prohibited in the 2001
Comprehensive Plan, while state authorities want to continue the
"It's too restrictive," said Planning Director Susan Fraser.
"We wanted to be more reasonable."
According to the St. Johns River Water Management District,
wetlands cover nearly 18 percent of Clay County. Roughly 72,800
acres of wetlands, all of which are designated for conservation,
are scattered throughout the county, including nearly 10,000
acres on military property.
In March 1995, the County Commission approved an amendment to
the comprehensive plan to loosen the restriction on wetlands
development. Two months later, the Department of Community
Affairs blocked the amendment.
The state's land-planning agency sent then-Commission Chairman
Pat McGovern a letter on May 23, 1995, advising him the proposed
amendment would not be acceptable.
The issue later was scheduled for a full review by the Division
of Administrative Hearings, which is a quasi-judicial
proceeding. However, the administrative procedure was aborted by
the County Commission Nov. 12.
The commissioners decided to give the DCA and the St. Johns
River Water Management District additional time to try to
resolve the dispute.
"This would settle a dispute between the county and the
Department of Community Affairs," County Attorney Mark Scruby
told commissioners. "The gist of this agreement is that
everybody is going back to square one."
But the agreement does not preclude the county from readopting
a new amendment to the comprehensive plan "at a later date," and
litigating the issue in court if no satisfactory resolution is
reached with the state, Scruby said.
"We can put this right back on the table and force the issue,"
The issue was the subject of a public hearing Nov. 12 before
the County Commission, but it attracted no comments from the
audience. The original ordinance also went by virtually
unnoticed by the public. …