Yes, Article X Section 18, adopted in 1998, provides that lands designated for natural resource conservation purposes may be disposed of only if the members of the governing board of the entity holding title determine the property is no longer needed for conservation purposes and only upon a vote of two-thirds of the governing board. The lands listed for surplus were approved by the District’s Governing Board following the procedure listed above.
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The District declares land as surplus when it’s ownership by the District no longer serves a conservation purpose. When the District is able to sell surplus lands to private individuals, it also returns that parcel to the tax rolls of the County in which it is located.
Generally, proceeds from surplus land sales will be used to purchase lands that have water resource value than lands that were sold. Sale of P2000 lands are provided to the state and sale of Florida Forever lands can be used to purchase other lands with greater water resource value or for restoration or water resource development purposes identified in the District’s Florida Forever Annual Work Plan.
District lands are evaluated for their water resource value for floodplain management and the protection of surface waters, wetlands, springs and aquifer recharge. Parcels that do not have high water resource value are then screened to ensure that their disposition will not compromise future management or public use of other District-owned lands.
The District’s Governing Board may consider factors that are secondary to its mission of protecting water resources and will determine the importance of such factors on a case by case basis.
Once evaluations are complete, staff sends its recommendation to the Governing Board’s Lands Committee to determine which parcels will be forwarded to the Governing Board for consideration. The recommendation may include a provision to retain certain restrictions on the property that is sold to ensure environmental qualities remain preserved. The Governing Board reviews these recommendations and may declare lands surplus in accordance with Florida Statutes.
All discussions and decisions regarding surplus lands take place in open public meetings that are advertised for the purpose of receiving public input.
The District posts surplus land sales on its website, sends notices out via its listserv and/or may list the surplus lands with real estate firms that have been prequalified by the District . Once the District has determined that the land is not wanted by other Governmental entities and has complied with other statutory requirements, the District may choose to offer the opportunity to purchase to adjacent property owners via certified mail. Notice of such offering is posted on the District website and also published in the local newspaper. If that is not successful, then the District will offer the property to the public at large.
State statues prohibit the District from selling land for less than appraised value. Therefore, the District requires appraisals on each property. The Governing Board may also require that the purchasing party assume all costs associated with the purchase, including document preparation and recording fees.