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The impact of Florida environmental laws on land development projects

On Behalf of | Aug 7, 2020 | Land Use and Zoning | 0 comments

Florida’s environmental laws protect the state’s diverse ecosystems and abundant natural resources. Land development firms must be familiar with how these regulations may affect proposed projects.

Below are several common environmental concerns that can arise for developers and construction companies in Florida.

Wetlands permits

Construction projects that affect Florida’s wetlands must obtain a permit from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. Before February 2020, the federal government managed the wetlands permitting process. To receive a permit, firms engaged in dredge-and-fill projects in this area must comply with all provisions of Section 404 of the federal Clean Water Act.

Stormwater discharge permits

Developers must seek this type of permit in Florida for projects that will disturb more than one acre of land. The firm must demonstrate management of water runoff from the construction site, which can pollute the local water supply. The type of permit varies depending on the size of the development in question.

Water resource construction permits

Florida’s environmentally fragile surface waters require legal protection. Construction projects that affect these surface waters must obtain an environmental resource permit. Examples include residential and commercial shoreline stabilization, dredge-and-fill projects and docks. To receive a permit, the firm must demonstrate that the project will not:

  • Pollute or flood the area;
  • Affect the recreational use of the surface water;
  • Impact water flows; or
  • Have a negative effect on wildlife, fish, or public health and safety.

Some areas require additional construction permits. If the state categorizes the area as Outstanding Florida Waters, the permit applicant must request a conservation easement and show that the development in question serves the public interest. Designated Aquatic Preserve areas are subject to the strictest regulations because of their sensitive fish, birds and aquatic plants.

In general, water resource permits apply to national and state park waters, including those in recreational areas, preserves and reserves. In addition, the protected areas in Lee County include the Estero Bay and its tributaries.

Whether you’re considering purchasing land for a new development project or to start a new business, speaking with a legal professional can be a helpful first step. Depending on the land in question, Florida’s environmental laws can be challenging to navigate. An attorney can answer your questions and inform you of your options.