Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the Environmentally Sensitive Lands Acquisition Referendum?
The environmentally sensitive lands referendum is an opportunity for the citizens
of Flagler County to decide whether or not to continue funding the
Environmentally Sensitive Lands program. If approved, the Board of County
Commissioners will authorize a 0.25 mill and the possible issuance of general
obligation bonds. This equates to approximately 10 cents per day or $3.13 per
month for the average homeowner with a $200,000 assessed value and $50,000
homestead exemption. Up to $40 million dollars in bonds may be issued. All
funds raised by the millage and bonds will be used to buy and manage
environmental lands and open space. These lands will be held in preservation
for public use.
2. Why do we need a program to buy environmentally sensitive lands?
As the rate of growth continues to increase, many of the county’s most precious
places are disappearing. As our population continues to grow, so will the need for
more roads, police, fire, emergency medical services, libraries, drainage
systems, drinking water and all the other infrastructure needed to support large
populations. Protecting environmentally sensitive lands balances the impacts of
future growth while buffering sensitive areas from development. Environmentally
sensitive lands perform free services for us, including flood control, filtering our
water resources, recharging our aquifer, cleaning our air, and providing open
spaces and recreational opportunities. Without protecting environmental lands
these services cost much more. We have the chance to preserve our way of life
and avoid future infrastructure costs by preserving our special places.
3. What areas are we going to purchase?
The program is committed to buying land distributed throughout Flagler County.
Funds are used to acquire recreation areas (including trails, water access, beach
front property and picnic areas), habitat for threatened and endangered species,
water protection areas which help prevent flooding and improve drinking water,
and historic preservation sites. The lands acquired will include wetlands, rare or
high-quality uplands, wildlife corridors (lands that link existing preserves), and
other lands that provide habitat for threatened or endangered species. These
lands protect our local native wildlife including the Florida panther, bald eagle,
Florida black bear and manatee. Lands acquired will help buffer our vital coastal
areas and water resources. However, all sites must meet a set of strict criteria
adopted by the County Commission.
4. Who decides what land gets purchased?
Under this program, anyone can nominate a site for acquisition. However, this is
a willing seller program. If a landowner is not willing to participate, their land will
not be included in the program. The site will be reviewed using criteria
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established by the Land Acquisition Manual and the Environmentally Sensitive
Lands Committee. The Committee is mandated to review proposed properties
and recommend specific properties to the County Commission. The Board of
County Commissioners will have the ultimate authority to decide if a certain
property is purchased.
5. What is the Environmentally Sensitive Lands Committee? Can I become
The Environmentally Sensitive Lands Acquisition Selection Advisory Committee
(LAC) was formed in 1989 by Ordinance 89-6. The LAC was slightly modified
four years later via Ordinance 93-18. Its purpose is to serve as an advisory
board to the Board of County Commissioners on issues involving the acquisition
and management of environmentally sensitive lands, recreation areas, and water
recharge areas. There are seven members which are selected by the County
Commission and serve staggered three year terms. Persons interested in
serving are encouraged to submit a letter of interest to the County Administrator.
6. What is the role of an Environmentally Sensitive Lands Committee?
The Environmentally Sensitive Lands Committee performs the following:
• Conduct site visits to nominated lands;
• Confirm that nominated lands meet the acquisition criteria
• Recommend specific properties to the Board of County Commissioners for
• Make recommendations regarding management and public use of each
7. Are the sites prioritized for acquisition or just accepted/rejected?
Sites are prioritized for acquisition and that information is presented to the Board
of County Commissioners for their consideration.
8. How do we know that we are paying the right price for the land?
All purchases are based on land values developed by qualified appraisers.
The program utilizes only state certified appraisers from a Florida Department
of Environmental Protection list. All purchases are performed in accordance
with section 125.355, Florida Statutes.
9. What scientific criteria will be used to determine which properties will
• Rarity: Rarity of natural community types, such as pine flatwoods,
hammocks or scrub; rarity of species, including rare and endangered
species such as the Florida panther or Red-cockaded woodpecker;
uniqueness of the sites special features
• Connectivity: Proximity to other protected lands to create green corridors
• Quality: Ecological quality; diversity of species; ecological integrity
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• Water Resources: Important to maintaining water quality in either a
natural water course, groundwater recharge area or estuarine
10. What is the procedure in purchasing land for the program?
• Site is nominated. Anyone can nominate land for a potential purchase.
• Property is researched by staff and Committee members to determine
ownership, zoning, size, natural resources, connectivity or other public
lands, water recharge potential, etc.
• The Committee reviews the project information and makes a
recommendation on contacting the owner and pursuing an acquisition.
• A negotiating team will be established and research will be conducted on
an acquisition strategy.
• If negotiations are successful, the purchase information will be presented
to the Committee for their consideration.
• The purchase information and the Committee’s recommendation will be
presented to the Board of County Commissioners for approval or denial.
11. How much will the program cost the average homeowner?
If the ESL referendum is supported on November 4th, the average taxpayer with
an assessed value of $200,000 and $50,000 homestead exemption would pay
only $3.13 per month or approximately 10 cents per day to continue the ESL
12. If the referendum passes when would we be able to purchase land?
We would be able to purchase land as soon the referendum passes. We would
have the ability to borrow the necessary funds immediately.
13. Would we bond right away?
We will look at what the best option is for Flagler County. Right now we have no
way of knowing what the growth rate will be, or future interest rates. We may
want to issue a series of bonds over the life of the program.
14. How soon after we bond will we be able to receive the money?
The money can be received in three to four months.
15. Are we eligible to receive funding from other sources? Are matching
Flagler County has a successful history in partnering with other programs to buy
environmental lands. State and Federal government programs require a local
match (often 50%) when funding a project. Without matching funds, Flagler
County is at a disadvantage when competing with other local governments and
would be ineligible for many grants. Over the past 20 years, Flagler County has
successfully more than doubled every dollar spent on ESL acquisitions by
securing funding from outside sources.
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16. Will these lands be properly managed?
Yes. Ten percent of the monies collected will be set aside for land management
purposes and to make these lands accessible to the public as soon as possible.
Land management may include conducting controlled burns for wildfire
mitigation, restoration of habitat, removal of exotic plant species that may out
compete endemic species, installation of fencing, trail development, and basic
maintenance. Accessibility improvements may include trail construction, fishing
piers, or canoe/kayak launches. The County looked to other counties with land
management programs and found that many other counties with similar
programs have established 10% of the funds as the optimum amount for land
17. Will this program take my property?
No, this is a voluntary program. Only properties whose owners are willing to sell
are considered and they will be paid fair market value.
18. Will the public have access to these sites?
Yes. The sites will be open to the public to enjoy. Examples of recreational
opportunities that will be available are hiking, kayaking, fishing and bird watching.
Citizens can enjoy all Flagler County parks without paying an admission fee.
19. Doesn’t this take too much land off the tax rolls, making my taxes
The Environmentally Sensitive Lands program does take land off the tax rolls.
However, development also costs taxpayers money, requiring funding for roads
and other infrastructure. In addition, studies show that adding conservation land
results in increased surrounding land values. Conservation land adds value to
The program also allows for the acquisition of conservation easements also. A
conservation easement is a voluntary agreement that allows a landowner to limit
the type or amount of development on their property while retaining private
ownership of the land.
20. How long will the program last?
If approved on November 4th, the program will continue for 20 years.
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Points to Remember
• The Flagler County Environmentally Sensitive Lands (ESL) program
preserves our quality of life.
• The ESL program allows Flagler County to buy environmentally sensitive
lands now, while they are still available and affordable.
• The funds raised locally for the ESL program can be matched by the State
and other agencies so we don’t have to pay the entire cost of protecting
these lands by ourselves.
• Purchase of environmentally sensitive lands may help stop overcrowding
and traffic congestion by taking some lands out of the path of
• By protecting some of our open space from more development, we can
protect our water resources and water quality.
• All funds raised by the ad valorem tax will be used strictly to buy and
manage environmental lands and open space, and those lands will be
held in preservation for public use.
• Environmentally sensitive lands can help us protect marsh and coastal
lands that help buffer us from the effects of storms and hurricanes.
• The ESL program protects local native wildlife like the Florida panther,
bald eagles, black bears, and manatees.
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Flagler County Facts:
• Flagler County encompasses approximately 325,120 acres or 508 square
• Approximately 45,000 acres in Flagler County are public lands
o The County holds title to over 4,200 acres
Flagler County Population Trends (source University of Florida Bureau of Economic
and Business Research):
• 1970 - 4,454
• 1980 – 10,913
• 1990 – 28,701
• 2000 – 49,832
• 2004 – 69,683
• 2008 – 95,512
Other County Land Acquisition Programs in Florida
• 27 Counties presently have voter-approved, tax-funded environmental
land acquisition programs.
o Indian River
o Palm Beach
o St. Lucie
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