Florida’s Minimum Wage Increases

30 12 2006

Florida’s minimum wage will increase to $6.67 an hour, effective Jan. 1, 2007, a 27-cent increase from the $6.40 an hour minimum wage in 2006.

A constitutional amendment approved by voters in November 2004 created a $6.15 an hour minimum wage in the state and required the Agency for Workforce Innovation to perform an annual calculation to establish a new minimum wage each year. The constitution also requires the adjusted minimum wage to be published.

The 2007 minimum wage represents a 4.2 percent change in the federal consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers in the South Region for the 12-month period prior to Sept. 1, 2006, the Agency for Workforce Innovation said.
The state’s 2007 minimum wage is $1.52 more than the current $5.15 federal minimum wage. The Florida minimum wage covers all employees in the state covered by the federal minimum wage, the agency said.

Source: The Business Journal of Jacksonville





Florida’s Minimum Wage Increases

29 12 2006

Florida’s minimum wage will increase to $6.67 an hour, effective Jan. 1, 2007, a 27-cent increase from the $6.40 an hour minimum wage in 2006.

A constitutional amendment approved by voters in November 2004 created a $6.15 an hour minimum wage in the state and required the Agency for Workforce Innovation to perform an annual calculation to establish a new minimum wage each year. The constitution also requires the adjusted minimum wage to be published.

The 2007 minimum wage represents a 4.2 percent change in the federal consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers in the South Region for the 12-month period prior to Sept. 1, 2006, the Agency for Workforce Innovation said.
The state’s 2007 minimum wage is $1.52 more than the current $5.15 federal minimum wage. The Florida minimum wage covers all employees in the state covered by the federal minimum wage, the agency said.

Source: The Business Journal of Jacksonville





Local, Statewide Home Sales Drop in November

29 12 2006

The slowdown in the housing market intensified in November both locally and across the state, as home sales dropped sharply and median prices stayed flat.

The number of single-family existing homes that sold in the Jacksonville area in November dropped 19 percent compared with November of last year. The median price of those homes was $182,000, down $200 from the same time last year. The figures are from the Florida Association of Realtors and do not include numbers from the St. Augustine & St. Johns County Board of Realtors.

The drop in sales in Northeast Florida was less dramatic than in the rest of the state. Sales were down in 18 of the 20 markets tracked by FAR, with the only increases being in Ocala (1 percent) and Sarasota (2 percent). Statewide sales were down 30 percent from last November, and 15 of the markets had declines greater than Jacksonville’s.

The statewide median price was down 3 percent to $242,500, with the median price dropping in 13 of the 20 markets.

Sales of existing condominiums were also down locally and statewide. In Jacksonville, sales were off 55 percent and the median price was down 4 percent to $167,100. Those numbers do not include figures from the St. Augustine & St. Johns County Board of Realtors. Across the state, sales were down 36 percent and the median price of $206,000 was down 4 percent.

Source: National Association of Realtors





Local, Statewide Home Sales Drop in November

28 12 2006

The slowdown in the housing market intensified in November both locally and across the state, as home sales dropped sharply and median prices stayed flat.

The number of single-family existing homes that sold in the Jacksonville area in November dropped 19 percent compared with November of last year. The median price of those homes was $182,000, down $200 from the same time last year. The figures are from the Florida Association of Realtors and do not include numbers from the St. Augustine & St. Johns County Board of Realtors.

The drop in sales in Northeast Florida was less dramatic than in the rest of the state. Sales were down in 18 of the 20 markets tracked by FAR, with the only increases being in Ocala (1 percent) and Sarasota (2 percent). Statewide sales were down 30 percent from last November, and 15 of the markets had declines greater than Jacksonville’s.

The statewide median price was down 3 percent to $242,500, with the median price dropping in 13 of the 20 markets.

Sales of existing condominiums were also down locally and statewide. In Jacksonville, sales were off 55 percent and the median price was down 4 percent to $167,100. Those numbers do not include figures from the St. Augustine & St. Johns County Board of Realtors. Across the state, sales were down 36 percent and the median price of $206,000 was down 4 percent.

Source: National Association of Realtors





City Adds $5M to Home Repair Program

23 12 2006

The Jacksonville Housing Commission will spend an additional $5 million on home repairs for residents awaiting assistance through its Owner Occupied Rehabilitation Program.

The program provides home repair assistance to about 200 low-income residents in conjunction with two local nonprofits, Builders Care and Jacksonville Housing Partnership Inc. The additional funding will allow the partnership to provide assistance to twice as many residents, many of whom live in neighborhoods targeted by the city’s Seeds of Change initiative.

The program will work form an established list of more than 3,500 cases. No new cases are being accepted.

Repairs include general repairs, the addition of handicap-accessible features and electrical or plumbing upgrades or overhauls.

The money comes from loan repayments recaptured when an individual who got mortgage assistance from the city sells or refinances their home.

Source: The Business Journal of Jacksonville





City Adds $5M to Home Repair Program

22 12 2006

The Jacksonville Housing Commission will spend an additional $5 million on home repairs for residents awaiting assistance through its Owner Occupied Rehabilitation Program.

The program provides home repair assistance to about 200 low-income residents in conjunction with two local nonprofits, Builders Care and Jacksonville Housing Partnership Inc. The additional funding will allow the partnership to provide assistance to twice as many residents, many of whom live in neighborhoods targeted by the city’s Seeds of Change initiative.

The program will work form an established list of more than 3,500 cases. No new cases are being accepted.

Repairs include general repairs, the addition of handicap-accessible features and electrical or plumbing upgrades or overhauls.

The money comes from loan repayments recaptured when an individual who got mortgage assistance from the city sells or refinances their home.

Source: The Business Journal of Jacksonville





Hotel Planned for Tapestry Park Project

13 12 2006

A local developer and a local hospitality company are teaming up with one of the world’s largest hotel groups to build a hotel in a mixed-use development on the Southside.
Jacksonville-based Joyce Development Group will develop and Zieg Hospitality of Jacksonville Inc. will own and operate the 96-room Hotel Indigo, which will be part of the InterContinental Hotels Group. The hotel will be in the Tapestry Park development

Joyce Development is the developer of Tapestry Park, the first phase of which will include townhomes, a restaurant, 16,000 square feet of office condominium space and 41,000 square feet of retail space. The project is north of the intersection of Southside and J. Turner Butler boulevards.

Site work on Tapestry Park started in September, and construction of the hotel is scheduled to start in late February or early March.

Source: The Business Journal of Jacksonville





Hotel Planned for Tapestry Park Project

12 12 2006

A local developer and a local hospitality company are teaming up with one of the world’s largest hotel groups to build a hotel in a mixed-use development on the Southside.
Jacksonville-based Joyce Development Group will develop and Zieg Hospitality of Jacksonville Inc. will own and operate the 96-room Hotel Indigo, which will be part of the InterContinental Hotels Group. The hotel will be in the Tapestry Park development

Joyce Development is the developer of Tapestry Park, the first phase of which will include townhomes, a restaurant, 16,000 square feet of office condominium space and 41,000 square feet of retail space. The project is north of the intersection of Southside and J. Turner Butler boulevards.

Site work on Tapestry Park started in September, and construction of the hotel is scheduled to start in late February or early March.

Source: The Business Journal of Jacksonville





PMI Paid in 2007 to Be Tax Deductible

12 12 2006

Homeowners who pay less than 20 percent down must many times pay for Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI), but a law recently passed by Congress makes that cost fully deductible on income taxes starting in 2007. It applies to new loans for households making less than $100,000 per year. The change also applies to mortgage insurance issued in combination with a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan.

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) is often required of borrowers who don’t have down payments of at least 20 percent, and don’t take out a second “piggyback” loan. Government insurance is mostly offered through the to borrowers considered too risky for traditional loans programs, usually first-time home buyers. Military veterans also take it out.

As we have been anticipating, the Congress, early last Saturday morning, passed a “tax extender” package that included the deductibility of mortgage insurance on new originations in 2007. The highlights of the bill are:

  • Permits federal personal income tax deduction for mortgage insurance premiums.
  • Applies to new originations only in 2007 (like many other provisions in the bill, it must be reauthorized for 2008.)
  • Only taxpayers earning less than $110,000 per year are eligible for the deduction (we understand that the deduction is phased out for borrowers with incomes between $100,000 and $110,000.)
  • Applies to premiums for both private and government (FHA,VA & RHS) insurance programs.

The bill, of course, must be signed by the President before it takes effect. However, there is absolutely no indication that the Administration is contemplating any veto action on this bill.

A broad range of consumer, business, taxpayer, civil rights, civic and labor groups have supported the legislation.





Special One-Time Federal Excise Tax Credit in 2006 Rebates Tax Overpayment on Phone Bills

12 12 2006

When it comes time to prepare and file your 2006 tax return, make sure you don’t overlook the “federal excise tax refund credit.” You claim the credit on line 71 of your form 1040. A similar line will be available if you file the short form 1040A. If you have family or friends who no longer file a tax return AND they have their own land phone in their home and have been paying a phone bill for years, make sure they know about this form 1040EZ-T.

What is this all about? Well the federal excise tax has been charged to you on your phone bill for years. It is an old tax that was assessed on your toll calls based on how far the call was being made and how much time you talked on that call. When phone companies began to offer flat fee phone service, challenges to the excise tax ended up in federal courts in several districts of the country. The challenges pointed out that flat fee/rate phone service had nothing to do with the distance and the length of the phone call. Therefore, the excise tax should/could not be assessed.

The IRS has now conceded this argument. Phone companies have been given notice to stop assessing the federal excise tax as of Aug 30, 2006. You will most likely see the tax on your September cutoff statement, but it should NOT be on your October bill.

But the challengers of the old law also demanded restitution. So the IRS has announced that a one time credit will be available when you and I file our 2006 tax return as I explained above. However, the IRS also established limits on how BIG a credit you can get. Here ‘s how it works.

  • If you file your return as a single person with just you as a dependent, you get to claim a $30 credit on line 71 of your 1040.
  • If you file with a child or a parent as your dependent, you claim $40. If you file your return as a married couple with no children, you claim $40.
  • If you file as married with children, you claim $50 if one child, $60 if two children.

In all cases, the most you get to claim is $60 – UNLESS you have all your phone bills starting AFTER Feb 28, 2003 through July 31, 2006 (do not use any bills starting Aug 1, 2006.), then you can add up the ACTUAL TAX AS IT APPEARS ON YOUR BILLS AND CLAIM THAT FOR A CREDIT.

Now if you have your actual phone bills and come up with an ACTUAL TAX AMOUNT, you cannot use line 71 on your tax return.

You have to complete a special form number 8913 and attach it to your tax return. Individuals using the special from 1040EZ-T will have to attach this form 8913 also.

One final point – this credit is a refundable credit. That means you get this money, no matter how your tax return works out.

Source: IRS.gov





PMI Paid in 2007 to Be Tax Deductible

11 12 2006

Homeowners who pay less than 20 percent down must many times pay for Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI), but a law recently passed by Congress makes that cost fully deductible on income taxes starting in 2007. It applies to new loans for households making less than $100,000 per year. The change also applies to mortgage insurance issued in combination with a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan.

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) is often required of borrowers who don’t have down payments of at least 20 percent, and don’t take out a second “piggyback” loan. Government insurance is mostly offered through the to borrowers considered too risky for traditional loans programs, usually first-time home buyers. Military veterans also take it out.

As we have been anticipating, the Congress, early last Saturday morning, passed a “tax extender” package that included the deductibility of mortgage insurance on new originations in 2007. The highlights of the bill are:

  • Permits federal personal income tax deduction for mortgage insurance premiums.
  • Applies to new originations only in 2007 (like many other provisions in the bill, it must be reauthorized for 2008.)
  • Only taxpayers earning less than $110,000 per year are eligible for the deduction (we understand that the deduction is phased out for borrowers with incomes between $100,000 and $110,000.)
  • Applies to premiums for both private and government (FHA,VA & RHS) insurance programs.

The bill, of course, must be signed by the President before it takes effect. However, there is absolutely no indication that the Administration is contemplating any veto action on this bill.

A broad range of consumer, business, taxpayer, civil rights, civic and labor groups have supported the legislation.





Special One-Time Federal Excise Tax Credit in 2006 Rebates Tax Overpayment on Phone Bills

11 12 2006

When it comes time to prepare and file your 2006 tax return, make sure you don’t overlook the “federal excise tax refund credit.” You claim the credit on line 71 of your form 1040. A similar line will be available if you file the short form 1040A. If you have family or friends who no longer file a tax return AND they have their own land phone in their home and have been paying a phone bill for years, make sure they know about this form 1040EZ-T.

What is this all about? Well the federal excise tax has been charged to you on your phone bill for years. It is an old tax that was assessed on your toll calls based on how far the call was being made and how much time you talked on that call. When phone companies began to offer flat fee phone service, challenges to the excise tax ended up in federal courts in several districts of the country. The challenges pointed out that flat fee/rate phone service had nothing to do with the distance and the length of the phone call. Therefore, the excise tax should/could not be assessed.

The IRS has now conceded this argument. Phone companies have been given notice to stop assessing the federal excise tax as of Aug 30, 2006. You will most likely see the tax on your September cutoff statement, but it should NOT be on your October bill.

But the challengers of the old law also demanded restitution. So the IRS has announced that a one time credit will be available when you and I file our 2006 tax return as I explained above. However, the IRS also established limits on how BIG a credit you can get. Here ‘s how it works.

  • If you file your return as a single person with just you as a dependent, you get to claim a $30 credit on line 71 of your 1040.
  • If you file with a child or a parent as your dependent, you claim $40. If you file your return as a married couple with no children, you claim $40.
  • If you file as married with children, you claim $50 if one child, $60 if two children.

In all cases, the most you get to claim is $60 – UNLESS you have all your phone bills starting AFTER Feb 28, 2003 through July 31, 2006 (do not use any bills starting Aug 1, 2006.), then you can add up the ACTUAL TAX AS IT APPEARS ON YOUR BILLS AND CLAIM THAT FOR A CREDIT.

Now if you have your actual phone bills and come up with an ACTUAL TAX AMOUNT, you cannot use line 71 on your tax return.

You have to complete a special form number 8913 and attach it to your tax return. Individuals using the special from 1040EZ-T will have to attach this form 8913 also.

One final point – this credit is a refundable credit. That means you get this money, no matter how your tax return works out.

Source: IRS.gov





Touchton Road Roadway Improvements Project

11 12 2006

Located between Southside Boulevard and Belfort Road in Duval County, Touchton Road is a two-laned collector roadway planned for future improvements.

Belfort Road and Touchton Road has become an alternative route for vehicles traversing to the Southpoint and Deerwood Park business areas, which have led to an increase in traffic volume along the roadways during peak hours. The St. John’s Town Center, Tinseltown Theaters, Deerwood Lake Shoppes, and the businesses that are located adjacent to area neighborhoods have spurred development and have changed this area into one of Jakcksonville’s most popular areas for living, shopping, dining and entertainment.

The widening of Touchton Road Roadway Improvements project is sponsored by the Better Jacksonville Plan and is scheduled for completion in Winter 2008. According to the Better Jacksonville Plan website, the project will include approximately 0.8 of a mile of roadway from Belfort Road to Southside Boulevard, planned for two-lane divided section with one-lane roundabouts at both intersections, including curb and gutter, sidewalks, and bike lanes constructed on both sides of Touchton Road.

Site Description:

The proposed construction of Touchton Road Park, a public park will begin in January 2007. The 15.85 acres project site includes 10.69 acres of Hardwood – Conifer Mixed (434), Existing Roads and Highways (814), 1.74 acres of Existing Roadway Drainage Ditch (510), 1.11 acres of Non-Forested Herbaceous Wetlands (640), and 2.31 acres of Mixed Forested Wetlands (630). An assessment of all the onsite wetlands and other surface waters, as well as, the impacts expected as a result of the proposed activities on the values of wetland functions, was done pursuant to 12.2.2.3 of the Applicant’s Handbook. The presence of endangered wildlife species was not observed or reported on the project site.

Impacts:

City of Jacksonville Department of Public Works has proposed to fill 1.11 acres of the herbaceous wetland and 1.74 acres of existing roadway drainage ditch for the widening of Touchton Road. This portion of the wetland is within the existing right-of-way and is maintained as an herbaceous system because of existing utilities. The City of Jacksonville has proposed to impact 0.23 acres forested wetlands to construct an elevated boardwalk to serve a City of Jacksonville Park. The boardwalk will provide public access for recreation and educational viewing. The City of Jacksonville has also proposed to build the 6-foot wide boardwalk within a 10-foot wide cleared area for construction of the structure. The boardwalk will be built with a minimum clearance of 2-feet and a maximum clearance of 4-feet above the wetlands with ¼-inch spacing between boards to help minimize adverse shading impacts and trees with a DBH greater-than 4.5-inches will be avoided.

Secondary Impacts:

The City of Jacksonville has provided additional mitigation to offset all anticipated secondary impacts within the scope of this proposed project.

There will be no impacts to the upland-nesting habitat of listed species that are aquatic or wetland dependent. There will be no impacts to significant historical and archaeological resources that are solely linked and causally related to any proposed dredging or filling of wetlands or other surface waters. The Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources does not indicate concern for the proposed project site, as indicated by letter. There are no wetland impacts that may be caused by future phases of the project or activities that are closely linked or causally related to the project. The proposed project does not include future development parcels that will facilitate future direct or secondary wetland impacts.

Elimination/Reduction of Impacts:

The City of Jacksonville has proposed to comply with section 12.2.1.2(b), A.H., by purchasing 2.04 credits at the Loblolly Mitigation bank. The mitigation implements part of a plan that provides regional ecological value and that provides greater long-term ecological value than the area of wetland or other surface water to be adversely affected. The bank credits are proposed to compensate the adverse impacts associated with the fill impacts proposed for the widening of Touchton Road and the installation of the two (2) small educational boardwalks.

Mitigation:

The City of Jacksonville has proposed to purchase of 2.04 credits at the Loblolly Mitigation Bank to offset the adverse direct and secondary impacts associated with the wetland fill associated with the widening of Touchton Road and the two (2) small educational boardwalks adjacent to the city park. The City has proposed to comply with section 12.2.1.2(b), A.H., by providing mitigation that implements part of a plan that provides regional ecological value and that provides greater long-term ecological value than the area of wetland or other surface water to be adversely affected. Pursuant to 12.2.2.2 of the Applicant’s Handbook, the 1.74 acres of ditch fill do not require mitigation because the ditches are upland-cut and do not provide significant habitat to threatened or endangered species.

The Loblolly Mitigation Bank received mitigation credits based on the assurances that the consolidation of multiple mitigation projects into a larger contiguous area will provide a mitigation area that will yield long-term sustainable, regional ecological benefits. The site forms part of the upper edge of the Black Creek watershed. The site contains the headwaters of Yellow Water Creek and portions of four tributaries to Yellow Water Creek. Most of the site drains eastwardly to Yellow Water Creek, a major tributary of Black Creek. The historic, natural drainage has been altered by the construction of forest roads and ditches. This has resulted in off-site peak flows that occur more rapidly and are of a shorter duration than the historic, natural flows. Specifically, Loblolly Mitigation Bank has proposed to cease silviculture activities, eliminate most planted pines and wetland bedding, restore site hydrology, restore native vegetative communities, eliminate adverse hunting effects, and implement a prescribed burning plan. The restored functional benefits provided by the forested wetlands when compared to the wetlands being impacted should provide for a large connected ecosystem that will provide ecological functions, such as habitat, water quality improvement and flood attenuation to the same receiving water shed as the proposed impacts.

Cumulative Impacts:

Section 12.2.8 A.H. requires applicants to provide reasonable assurances that their projects will not cause unacceptable cumulative impacts upon wetlands and other surface waters within the same drainage basin as the project for which a permit is sought. This analysis considers past, present, and likely future similar impacts and assumes that reasonably expected future applications with like impacts will be sought, thus necessitating equitable distribution of acceptable impacts among future applications. Mitigation, which offsets a projects adverse impacts within the same basin as the project for which a permit is sought is presumed to not cause unacceptable cumulative impacts.

The proposed mitigation will offset the project’s adverse impacts and it is in the same drainage basin; therefore the project complies with the criteria outlined in Section 12.2.8 of the Applicant’s Handbook.

_______________________________________________________
Wetland Summary Table

Touchton Road Widening

Total Wetlands On-site 3.42 Acres
Total Surface Waters On-site 1.74 Acres
Impacts that Require Mitigation 1.34 Acres
Impacts that Require No Mitigation 1.74 Acres

Mitigation 2.04 Credits
Loblolly Mitigation Bank Credits 2.04
_________________________________________________________

Reviewers: William O’Toole
Alexandria James





Devlin Group’s Big House Project Turned Down

11 12 2006

A recent community meeting with Council Member Suzanne Jenkins on December 4, 2006 at Cuba Hunter Park Community Center located at 3620 Bedford Road was to discuss the Land Use Amendment 2006D-025 and 2006-1266 for a property located at 3124 Belfort Road, just west of the intersection of Touchton/Belfort Road.

At present, a single-family residential home occupies this 13.58-acre property. The proposed Future Land Use Map (FLUM) amendment seeks to change the designation of Low Density Residential (LDR) to Medium Density Residential (MDR), with a companion rezoning from Residential Low Density-G (RLD-G) to Planned Unit Development (PUD.) The applicant, developer at The Devlin Group Inc., sought the amendment to allow for multi-family residential development. The proposed “Big House Project”, a condominium community with 203 units will feature two and three-story buildings with attached garages, a clubhouse and community pool.

Area residents opposed the amendment as this sets precedent for an isolated spot of multi-family development without a transition of uses between single-family and multi-family and is out of context with the development trends of the neighborhood. The proposed amendment would add trips to Belfort Road, which is operating at capacity with a Level of Service (LOS) E and would create an adverse condition on the already congested roadways and the character of the neighborhood. The amendment will also create burden on existing schools at Greenfield Elementary School (561 enrollment/566 capacity), Southside Middle School (1,982 enrollment/1,949 capcity), and Englewood High School (1,982 enrollment/1,949 capacity.)

The City of Jacksonville and Planning and Development Department denied the amendment as it is inconsistent with the City’s 2010 Comprehensive Plan, Strategic Regional Policy Plan, and the State Comprehensive Plan.

I support this decision and encourage the developer to consider a single-family residential development at this site as it will be consistent with and add value to residential neighborhoods.





Touchton Road Roadway Improvements Project

10 12 2006

Located between Southside Boulevard and Belfort Road in Duval County, Touchton Road is a two-laned collector roadway planned for future improvements.

Belfort Road and Touchton Road has become an alternative route for vehicles traversing to the Southpoint and Deerwood Park business areas, which have led to an increase in traffic volume along the roadways during peak hours. The St. John’s Town Center, Tinseltown Theaters, Deerwood Lake Shoppes, and the businesses that are located adjacent to area neighborhoods have spurred development and have changed this area into one of Jakcksonville’s most popular areas for living, shopping, dining and entertainment.

The widening of Touchton Road Roadway Improvements project is sponsored by the Better Jacksonville Plan and is scheduled for completion in Winter 2008. According to the Better Jacksonville Plan website, the project will include approximately 0.8 of a mile of roadway from Belfort Road to Southside Boulevard, planned for two-lane divided section with one-lane roundabouts at both intersections, including curb and gutter, sidewalks, and bike lanes constructed on both sides of Touchton Road.

Site Description:

The proposed construction of Touchton Road Park, a public park will begin in January 2007. The 15.85 acres project site includes 10.69 acres of Hardwood – Conifer Mixed (434), Existing Roads and Highways (814), 1.74 acres of Existing Roadway Drainage Ditch (510), 1.11 acres of Non-Forested Herbaceous Wetlands (640), and 2.31 acres of Mixed Forested Wetlands (630). An assessment of all the onsite wetlands and other surface waters, as well as, the impacts expected as a result of the proposed activities on the values of wetland functions, was done pursuant to 12.2.2.3 of the Applicant’s Handbook. The presence of endangered wildlife species was not observed or reported on the project site.

Impacts:

City of Jacksonville Department of Public Works has proposed to fill 1.11 acres of the herbaceous wetland and 1.74 acres of existing roadway drainage ditch for the widening of Touchton Road. This portion of the wetland is within the existing right-of-way and is maintained as an herbaceous system because of existing utilities. The City of Jacksonville has proposed to impact 0.23 acres forested wetlands to construct an elevated boardwalk to serve a City of Jacksonville Park. The boardwalk will provide public access for recreation and educational viewing. The City of Jacksonville has also proposed to build the 6-foot wide boardwalk within a 10-foot wide cleared area for construction of the structure. The boardwalk will be built with a minimum clearance of 2-feet and a maximum clearance of 4-feet above the wetlands with ¼-inch spacing between boards to help minimize adverse shading impacts and trees with a DBH greater-than 4.5-inches will be avoided.

Secondary Impacts:

The City of Jacksonville has provided additional mitigation to offset all anticipated secondary impacts within the scope of this proposed project.

There will be no impacts to the upland-nesting habitat of listed species that are aquatic or wetland dependent. There will be no impacts to significant historical and archaeological resources that are solely linked and causally related to any proposed dredging or filling of wetlands or other surface waters. The Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources does not indicate concern for the proposed project site, as indicated by letter. There are no wetland impacts that may be caused by future phases of the project or activities that are closely linked or causally related to the project. The proposed project does not include future development parcels that will facilitate future direct or secondary wetland impacts.

Elimination/Reduction of Impacts:

The City of Jacksonville has proposed to comply with section 12.2.1.2(b), A.H., by purchasing 2.04 credits at the Loblolly Mitigation bank. The mitigation implements part of a plan that provides regional ecological value and that provides greater long-term ecological value than the area of wetland or other surface water to be adversely affected. The bank credits are proposed to compensate the adverse impacts associated with the fill impacts proposed for the widening of Touchton Road and the installation of the two (2) small educational boardwalks.

Mitigation:

The City of Jacksonville has proposed to purchase of 2.04 credits at the Loblolly Mitigation Bank to offset the adverse direct and secondary impacts associated with the wetland fill associated with the widening of Touchton Road and the two (2) small educational boardwalks adjacent to the city park. The City has proposed to comply with section 12.2.1.2(b), A.H., by providing mitigation that implements part of a plan that provides regional ecological value and that provides greater long-term ecological value than the area of wetland or other surface water to be adversely affected. Pursuant to 12.2.2.2 of the Applicant’s Handbook, the 1.74 acres of ditch fill do not require mitigation because the ditches are upland-cut and do not provide significant habitat to threatened or endangered species.

The Loblolly Mitigation Bank received mitigation credits based on the assurances that the consolidation of multiple mitigation projects into a larger contiguous area will provide a mitigation area that will yield long-term sustainable, regional ecological benefits. The site forms part of the upper edge of the Black Creek watershed. The site contains the headwaters of Yellow Water Creek and portions of four tributaries to Yellow Water Creek. Most of the site drains eastwardly to Yellow Water Creek, a major tributary of Black Creek. The historic, natural drainage has been altered by the construction of forest roads and ditches. This has resulted in off-site peak flows that occur more rapidly and are of a shorter duration than the historic, natural flows. Specifically, Loblolly Mitigation Bank has proposed to cease silviculture activities, eliminate most planted pines and wetland bedding, restore site hydrology, restore native vegetative communities, eliminate adverse hunting effects, and implement a prescribed burning plan. The restored functional benefits provided by the forested wetlands when compared to the wetlands being impacted should provide for a large connected ecosystem that will provide ecological functions, such as habitat, water quality improvement and flood attenuation to the same receiving water shed as the proposed impacts.

Cumulative Impacts:

Section 12.2.8 A.H. requires applicants to provide reasonable assurances that their projects will not cause unacceptable cumulative impacts upon wetlands and other surface waters within the same drainage basin as the project for which a permit is sought. This analysis considers past, present, and likely future similar impacts and assumes that reasonably expected future applications with like impacts will be sought, thus necessitating equitable distribution of acceptable impacts among future applications. Mitigation, which offsets a projects adverse impacts within the same basin as the project for which a permit is sought is presumed to not cause unacceptable cumulative impacts.

The proposed mitigation will offset the project’s adverse impacts and it is in the same drainage basin; therefore the project complies with the criteria outlined in Section 12.2.8 of the Applicant’s Handbook.

_______________________________________________________
Wetland Summary Table

Touchton Road Widening

Total Wetlands On-site 3.42 Acres
Total Surface Waters On-site 1.74 Acres
Impacts that Require Mitigation 1.34 Acres
Impacts that Require No Mitigation 1.74 Acres

Mitigation 2.04 Credits
Loblolly Mitigation Bank Credits 2.04
_____________________
____________________________________

Reviewers: William O’Toole
Alexandria James





Devlin Group’s Big House Project Turned Down

10 12 2006

A recent community meeting with Council Member Suzanne Jenkins on December 4, 2006 at Cuba Hunter Park Community Center located at 3620 Bedford Road was to discuss the Land Use Amendment 2006D-025 and 2006-1266 for a property located at 3124 Belfort Road, just west of the intersection of Touchton/Belfort Road.

At present, a single-family residential home occupies this 13.58-acre property. The proposed Future Land Use Map (FLUM) amendment seeks to change the designation of Low Density Residential (LDR) to Medium Density Residential (MDR), with a companion rezoning from Residential Low Density-G (RLD-G) to Planned Unit Development (PUD.) The applicant, developer at The Devlin Group Inc., sought the amendment to allow for multi-family residential development. The proposed “Big House Project”, a condominium community with 203 units will feature two and three-story buildings with attached garages, a clubhouse and community pool.

Area residents opposed the amendment as this sets precedent for an isolated spot of multi-family development without a transition of uses between single-family and multi-family and is out of context with the development trends of the neighborhood. The proposed amendment would add trips to Belfort Road, which is operating at capacity with a Level of Service (LOS) E and would create an adverse condition on the already congested roadways and the character of the neighborhood. The amendment will also create burden on existing schools at Greenfield Elementary School (561 enrollment/566 capacity), Southside Middle School (1,982 enrollment/1,949 capcity), and Englewood High School (1,982 enrollment/1,949 capacity.)

The City of Jacksonville and Planning and Development Department denied the amendment as it is inconsistent with the City’s 2010 Comprehensive Plan, Strategic Regional Policy Plan, and the State Comprehensive Plan.

I support this decision and encourage the developer to consider a single-family residential development at this site as it will be consistent with and add value to residential neighborhoods.





Who’s Buying Houses Now?

2 12 2006

Despite low mortgage interest rates, a smaller percentage of first-time homebuyers are entering the market, according to an annual profile of buyers and sellers just released by the National Association of Realtors.

During the year ending in June, 36% of all buyers who purchased a home were first-time buyers. That’s down from 40% a year ago. Part of the reason for the declining share of first-time homeowners: Declining affordability for those entering the market after the housing boom of the past couple of years bumped up home prices, said David Lereah, the NAR’s chief economist. A greater number of second-home sales also may have contributed to a lower percentage of first-time buyers overall.

The percentage of single female homebuyers, however, inched up in the survey to its highest level on record. Twenty-two percent of all homebuyers were female and on their own, up from 21% a year ago and up from 14% in 1995. In comparison, single males accounted for 9% of homebuyers, unchanged from last year.

Existing-home sales in the South slipped 1.2 percent to an annual sales rate of 2.49 million in October, down 8.8 percent from the same period a year ago. The median price in the South was $185,000, down 7 percent from a spike in October 2005.

Source: www.realtor.org





Who’s Buying Houses Now?

1 12 2006

Despite low mortgage interest rates, a smaller percentage of first-time homebuyers are entering the market, according to an annual profile of buyers and sellers just released by the National Association of Realtors.

During the year ending in June, 36% of all buyers who purchased a home were first-time buyers. That’s down from 40% a year ago. Part of the reason for the declining share of first-time homeowners: Declining affordability for those entering the market after the housing boom of the past couple of years bumped up home prices, said David Lereah, the NAR’s chief economist. A greater number of second-home sales also may have contributed to a lower percentage of first-time buyers overall.

The percentage of single female homebuyers, however, inched up in the survey to its highest level on record. Twenty-two percent of all homebuyers were female and on their own, up from 21% a year ago and up from 14% in 1995. In comparison, single males accounted for 9% of homebuyers, unchanged from last year.

Existing-home sales in the South slipped 1.2 percent to an annual sales rate of 2.49 million in October, down 8.8 percent from the same period a year ago. The median price in the South was $185,000, down 7 percent from a spike in October 2005.

Source: www.realtor.org








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