TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: The Jacksonville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) has received an application for a Department of the Army permit pursuant to Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. §1344) as described below:
Lake Buena Vista Investments, LLC
C/o Jack Fletcher
15951 SW 41st Street Suite 800
Davie, FL 33331
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The project would affect waters of the United States associated with Hydrologic Unit Code 0309010105. The project site is located west of Reedy Creek Drive, on the north side of Winter Garden Vineland Road, within Section 21, Township 24 South, Range 28 East, Orange County, Florida.
Directions to the site are as follows: From I-4 exit at SR 535 and continue north to Winter Garden Vineland Road. Head west of Winter Garden Vineland Road. Subject project is located on north side of road, approximately 500’ west of intersection and to the west of the existing Twin Peaks restaurant.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES: Latitude 28.386335°
Basic: Hotel construction
Overall: Develop a hotel and associated infrastructure within an existing planned development in the western portion of Orange County.
EXISTING CONDITIONS: The Lake Buena Vista Village DP site currently supports two land use types/vegetative communities, as identified utilizing the Florida Land Use, Cover and Forms Classification System, Level III (FLUCCS, FDEP, January 2004). The on-site upland land use types/vegetative community is classified as Retail Sales and Services. The on-site wetland/surface water land use types/vegetative community is classified as Bay Swamp (611). The following provides a brief description of the land use types/vegetative communities:
The existing uplands within the overall project are predominantly located within the southern and central-eastern portion of the site and consist of a currently constructed restaurant (Twin Peaks) and associated stormwater and paved parking. This land use/vegetative community would be classified as Retails Sales and Services (FLUCCS 141). This portion of the project has been developed as authorized by the South Florida Water Management District’s (SFWMD) issuance of ERP #48-02243-P (Appl. No. 130-322-8).
The remaining portion of the overall property is located within the northern portion of the site and can best be classifed as Bay Swamp (FLUCCS 611). This wetland system is associated with Cypress Creek and vegetative species observed include a canopy of sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana), loblolly bay (Gordonia lasianthus), and dahoon holly (Illex cassine); with understory species such as scattered swamp fern (Blechnum serrulatum), air-potato vine (Dioscorea bulbifera), poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), primrose willow (Ludwigia peruviana), and muscadine vine (Vitis rotundifolia). At the time of site inspection, the interior portions of the system were inundated.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to fill 1.68 acres of waters of the U.S. (WoUS) for development of a hotel.
AVOIDANCE AND MINIMIZATION INFORMATION – The applicant has provided the following information in support of efforts to avoid and/or minimize impacts to the aquatic environment:
“The proposed site plan as submitted to the OCEPD, SJRWMD and the USACE was developed with specific goals, including avoidance and minimization of impacts to a degree of allowance for project feasibility.
From a planning perspective of the surrounding areas, those lands to the east and south have been heavily constructed as commercial development (PD, C) consisting of commercial, retail, restaurants and hotels. To the north, the undeveloped lands are zoned PD and to the west, the undeveloped lands are zoned Residential-Country Estates (R-CE); both with a FLU of Residential (R). Historic aerials reviewed for this general vicinity show the transition from agricultural lands in the mid-1940’s to dense commercial land use (starting in the early to mid-1980’s). With respect to current Zoning, the subject property is zoned as PD. Additionally, the vast majority of developed lands within the surrounding area are zoned as PD. As such, the subject site is better prepared than surrounding alternative development options, particularly due to the previous and current PD approvals, its approved OCEPD CAI (both previous and current) and its approved SJRWMD ERP (previous; with current in-house), its location, current zoning and future land use, utilities, current ownership (as both MHB Associates II, LLC and Lake Buena Vista Investments, LLC) and minimized impacts to viable on-site wetlands compared to alternative sites.
As this site and its wetland impacts were previously approved by all of the respective regulatory agencies, and as all mitigation for these impacts has been provided – with the commercial impacts (1.23 ac) having already occurred, and as this site has been owned by the current applicant since 2007 – this site was chosen by the applicant without exploring alternative sites in the area.
The location of the subject site is paramount to the ultimate project goal of providing hotel accommodations for the ever expanding tourism trade for Central Florida, as dictated by the increasing demand within this sector of Orange County. As stated above, only a few, undeveloped parcels remain in the area and most of these are dominated by wetlands and have not been historically permitted. The desired project is to be located within the limits of unincorporated Orange County, near the intersection of Interstate 4 (I-4) and Apopka Vineland Road (SR 535); within close proximity to the area’s numerous theme parks (Disney, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, Aquatica, Seaworld, Universal Studios, Hollywood Studios, etc), its numerous entertainment areas (Disney Springs, International Drive, Kissimmee, etc.) and the City of Orlando. The project’s location was chosen due to its proximity to main, arterial roads (SR 535, SR 536) and highways (I-4, SR 528 & SR 417); thereby supporting access to all of these tourist destinations. Hotel development is in high demand for this part of Central Florida. The proposed development will help support this specific demand of this area.
The subject site was selected based on previous permitting authorities by the OCEPD, SJRWMD and USACE and minimally invasive design to wetlands/surface waters to accommodate the desired site plan; which is consisted with previously approved and current PD’s through Orange County and a previously approved ERP through the SFWMD.
The proposed site and site plan is the least environmentally damaging in comparison to any practicable alternative which is available for purchase and meeting the project requirements of accessibility for the distribution of goods based on its previous authorization of wetland impacts and provided mitigation.
As provided, with the modification of the previoiusly approved plans to now incorporate the construction of a 168-room hotel, it will be necessary to provide for the additionally required amount of parking spaces. Per Orange County code, a total of 218 parking spaces will be required in conjunction with both the existing Twin Peaks restaurant and the proposed 168-room hotel. As originally approved, the project boundaries can only suport approximately 180 to 190 surface parking spaces without further impacts to wetlands/conservation easement; hence the current application/modification request. The proposed 0.45 acres of additioanl direct wetland impacts beyond those previously authorized cannot be avoided as the required parking spaces cannot be provided without these impacts. Further impacts to the onsite wetlands have been minimized by utilizing a 2½ story parking garage…thereby taking advantage of the vertical expansion as opposed to a horizontal expansion; which would require a substantially greater impact footprint to the adjacent wetlands/conservation easement.”
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION – The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:
“Mitigation to offset the functional losses incurred via the project’s 0.45 acres of direct wetland impact and 0.14 acres of secondary impact is to consist of the purchase of mitigation credits from RCMB. As detailed in the attached UMAM Summary – which utilizes the approved UMAM scores from the previous ERP, the above 0.45 acres of direct wetland impact and 0.14 acres of secondary impact account for a total of 0.29 units of funtional loss (FL). In order to offset these losses, a total of 0.29 mitigation bank credits (UMAM) are to be purchased from the RCMB. See attached RCMB Reservation Letter. It shoud be stated that as no mitigative value was attributed to any of the wetlands placed under conservation easement, no “replacement” mitigative value is required or proposed.”
The Corps is not aware of any known historic properties within the permit area, which is defined by the project boundaries. The Florida Master Site File database indicates a cultural resource assessment survey may be required within the permit area. By copy of this public notice, the Corps is providing information for review. Our final determination relative to historic resource impacts is subject to review by and coordination with the State Historic Preservation Officer and those federally recognized tribes with concerns in Florida and the Permit Area.
The Corps has determined the proposed project may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect the Eastern Indigo Snake and its designated critical habitat. Based upon review of the Corps and Service’s Eastern Indigo Snake Programmatic Effect Determination Key (dated August 1, 2017), the proposed project resulted in the following sequential determination: A (The project is not located in open water or salt marsh.) >B (The permit will be conditioned for use of the Service’s standard Protection Measures for the Eastern Indigo snake during site preparation and protection construction.) >C (The project will impact less than 25 acres of eastern indigo snake habitat) > D (The project has known holes, cavities, active or inactive gopher tortoise burrows, or other underground refugia where a snake could be buried, trapped and/or injured during project activites) >E (Permit will be conditioned such that all gopher tortoise burrows, active or inactive, will be evacuated prior to site manipulation in the vicinity of the burrow) = “not likely to adversely affect” for the Eastern indigo snake. The permit will be conditioned with the Standard Construction Guidelines for the Eastern Indigo Snake. No further consultation was required.
Based on existing habitat types, the Corps preliminarily determined the project will have no effect on red-cockaded woodpecker (Leuconotopicus borealis), Florida grasshopper sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum floridanus), Everglades Snail Kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus), Audubon’s crested caracara (Polyborus plancus audubonii) and Florida scrub jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens), Wood stork (Mycteria americana).
ESSENTIAL FISH HABITAT (EFH): This notice initiates consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service on EFH as required by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act 1996. The proposal would impact approximately
1.68 acres of freshwater wetlands which ultimately discharge to Lake Marion Creek. Our initial determination is that the proposed action would not have a substantial adverse impact on EFH or Federally managed fisheries in the downstream waters. Our final determination relative to project impacts and the need for mitigation measures is subject to review by and coordination with the National Marine Fisheries Service.
NOTE: This public notice is being issued based on information furnished by the applicant. This information has not been verified or evaluated to ensure compliance with laws and regulation governing the regulatory program. The jurisdictional line has not been verified by Corps personnel.
AUTHORIZATION FROM OTHER AGENCIES: Water Quality Certification may be required from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and/or one of the state Water Management Districts.
COMMENTS regarding the potential authorization of the work proposed should be submitted in writing to the attention of the District Engineer through the Cocoa Permits Section, 400 High Point Drive, Suite 600, Cocoa, Florida 32926, within 21 days from the date of this notice.
The decision whether to issue or deny this permit application will be based on the information received from this public notice and the evaluation of the probable impact to the associated wetlands. This is based on an analysis of the applicant's avoidance and minimization efforts for the project, as well as the compensatory mitigation proposed.
QUESTIONS concerning this application should be directed to the project manager, Brandon Conroy, in writing at the Cocoa Permits Section, 400 High Point Drive, Suite 600, Cocoa, Florida 32926; by electronic mail at email@example.com; by facsimile transmission at (321) 504-3803; or, by telephone at (504) 321-3771 x11.
IMPACT ON NATURAL RESOURCES: Coordination with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Marine Fisheries Services, and other Federal, State, and local agencies, environmental groups, and concerned citizens generally yields pertinent environmental information that is instrumental in determining the impact the proposed action will have on the natural resources of the area.
EVALUATION: The decision whether to issue a permit will be based on an evaluation of the probable impact including cumulative impacts of the proposed activity on the public interest. That decision will reflect the national concern for both protection and utilization of important resources. The benefits, which reasonably may be expected to accrue from the proposal, must be balanced against its reasonably foreseeable detriments. All factors which may be relevant to the proposal will be considered including cumulative impacts thereof; among these are conservation, economics, esthetics, general environmental concerns, wetlands, historical properties, fish and wildlife values, flood hazards, floodplain values, land use, navigation, shoreline erosion and accretion, recreation, water supply and conservation, water quality, energy needs, safety, food, and fiber production, mineral needs, considerations of property ownership, and in general, the needs and welfare of the people. Evaluation of the impact of the activity on the public interest will also include application of the guidelines promulgated by the Administrator, EPA, under authority of Section 404(b) of the Clean Water Act or the criteria established under authority of Section 102(a) of the Marine Protection Research and Sanctuaries Act of 1972. A permit will be granted unless its issuance is found to be contrary to the public interest.
The US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) is soliciting comments from the public; Federal, State, and local agencies and officials; Indian Tribes; and other Interested parties in order to consider and evaluate the impacts of this proposed activity. Any comments received will be considered by the Corps to determine whether to issue, modify, condition, or deny a permit for this proposal. To make this determination, comments are used to assess impacts to endangered species, historic properties, water quality, general environmental effects, and the other public interest factors listed above. Comments are also used to determine the need for a public hearing and to determine the overall public interest of the proposed activity.
COASTAL ZONE MANAGEMENT CONSISTENCY: In Florida, the State approval constitutes compliance with the approved Coastal Zone Management Plan. In Puerto Rico, a Coastal Zone Management Consistency Concurrence is required from the Puerto Rico Planning Board. In the Virgin Islands, the Department of Planning and Natural Resources permit constitutes compliance with the Coastal Zone Management Plan.
REQUEST FOR PUBLIC HEARING: Any person may request a public hearing. The request must be submitted in writing to the District Engineer within the designated comment period of the notice and must state the specific reasons for requesting the public hearing.