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:
APPLICANT: Beachline South Residential, LLC
c/o Mr. Keith Trace
4901 Vineland Road, Suite 450
Orlando, Florida 32811
WATERWAY AND LOCATION: The 223± acre Starwood Meridian Parks Phase 2 and 3 project would affect waters of the United States associated with the Kissimmee River Hydrologic Unit (Hydrologic Unit Code 03090101); project is located north of Lake Hart. The project site is located south of SR 528 and east of SR 417, within Section 33, Township 23 South, Range 31 East, in Orange County, Florida.
Directions to the site are as follows: The project is not accessible by public road but is located in the southeast quadrant of the intersection of SR 417 and SR 528.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES: Latitude: 28.4417°
Basic: Residential and school
Overall: Development of a residential community and school within the eastern half of Orange County, Florida.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION: The proposed Meridian Parks – Phases 2 & 3 and School Site project (approximately 223 acres total) is a mixed-use development (residential sub-division and school site) located within an overall mixed-use Planned Development (PD) known as Starwood. The initial phase of Starwood was authorized under SAJ-2016-00317. The subject Meridian Parks project entails proposed mixed-residential development (128 acres) and a school site (95 acres).
EXISTING CONDITIONS: On-site land use types/vegetative communities were identified utilizing the Florida Land Use, Cover and Forms Classification System, Level III (FLUCCS, FDOT, 1999). The on-site upland land use types/vegetative communities include:
FLUCCS 321 – Palmetto Prairie
This upland association is characterized by open prairie lacking significant canopy. These areas are dominated by a ground cover of dense saw palmetto (Serenoa repens). Additional dominant species within these rangelands include wire grass (Aristida stricta), broomsedge (Andropogon virginicus), bahia grass (Paspalum notatum), beaksedge (Rhynchospora sp.), flattop goldenrod (Euthamia graminifolia), gallberry (Ilex glabra), and staggerbush (Lyonia spp.). Scattered slash pine (Pinus elliottii), longleaf pine (Pinus palustris), and xeric oaks (Quercus spp.) are also present. These areas are utilized as unimproved pastureland for cattle.
FLUCCS 411 – Pine Flatwoods
This upland association is characterized by a canopy of slash pine and dense midstory/groundcover of saw palmetto and gallberry. Additional dominant species within these areas include wire grass, broomsedge, beaksedge, shiny blueberry (Vaccinium myrsinites), staggerbush, and greenbrier (Smilax sp.). These areas are utilized as unimproved, forested pastureland for cattle.
FLUCCS 421 – Xeric Oak
This upland association is characterized by a midstory of various xeric/scrub oak species and groundcover of saw palmetto. Dominant species within these areas include sand live oak (Quercus geminata), various scrub oak species, wire grass, broomsedge, staggerbush, and greenbrier. These areas are utilized as unimproved, forested pastureland for cattle.
FLUCCS 740 – Disturbed Land
These uplands are comprised of mass graded areas previously authorized under SFWMD Permit No. 48-02572-P. These areas are characterized by large expanses of open soil and permitted stormwater management ponds, with sod utilized to stabilize slopes. These areas are devoid of native vegetative cover. Prior to conversion, these areas were indicative of the on-site Palmetto Prairie (FLUCCS 321) communities.
A total of 79.29 acres of wetlands and surface waters occur on-site and include:
FLUCCS 610 – Wetland Hardwood Forest
The site contains several strands of swampland characterized by an interior dominated by cypress (Taxodium distichum), whereas the landward margins are dominated by loblolly bay (Gordonia lasianthus). Additional dominant species within these freshwater swamps include sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana), gallberry, bushy bluestem (Andropogon glomeratus), Virginia chain fern (Woodwardia virginica), royal fern (Osmunda regalis), cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), spikerush (Eleocharis sp.), marsh pennywort (Hydrocotyle umbellata), sawgrass (Cladium jamaicense), soft rush (Juncus effusus), smartweed (Polygonum punctatum), spadeleaf (Centella asiatica), saw palmetto, and poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans).
FLUCCS 643 – Wet Prairie
A wet prairie wetland system is centrally located within the site, and is characterized by open wet prairie lacking significant canopy. These areas are dominated by a ground cover of dense hydrophytic grasses and sedges, with sparse occurrence of saw palmetto. Dominant species within the freshwater wet prairie include blue maidencane (Amphicarpum muehlenbergianum), maidencane (Panicum hemitomon), bushy bluestem, St. Johns wort (Hypericum fasciculatum), spikerush, gallberry, saw palmetto, marsh pennywort, cinnamon fern, Virginia chain fern, sawgrass, soft rush, smartweed, spadeleaf, and slash pine.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks to modify SAJ-2016-00317 for the authorization of fill in 13.88 acres of waters of the United States for residential and school development on the 223± acre Meridian Parks project.
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 residential development footprint contains, or directly abuts, four separate wetland systems (W1, W2, W6, and W32). The original site plan design entailed greater impacts along both W1 and W2, as well as complete impacts to W32. Through modification/reduction of standardized lot lengths, the current design was able to further minimize impacts to both W1 and W2, as well as provide a standard, protective 25-foot average upland buffer along the majority of the wetlands. These design modifications reduced anticipated wetland impacts by approximately two acres.
The School Site (educational/institutional development) has individual specifications for required developable area and restricted ability to avoid wetlands through unique and flexible site design. For example, residential design often allows more flexibility of footprint than large school sites due to local design and safety requirements.
Based on extensive discussions and negotiations with local government agencies and community stakeholders, the subject property is to supply a contiguous developable area, meeting the following criteria, to support future construction of a local school: 1. Site must provide a minimum of 62 acres of contiguous developable area; 2. Site must be located with immediate ingress/egress to a future high-volume/major roadway; 3. Site must support a single, large interior “loop-road” to provide efficient and effective transport of student/faculty traffic (school buses and private vehicles).”
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION: The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:
“In total, the proposed project entails Permanent Direct Impacts to 13.88 acres of jurisdictional Wetlands (Wetlands W1, W2, W3, and W32) and Potential Secondary Impacts to 2.85 acres of jurisdictional Wetlands (Wetlands W1, W2 and W3). The WRAP was utilized to assess and quantify functional loss resulting from the proposed jurisdictional impacts which require compensatory mitigation. Based on the enclosed WRAP analysis, impacts to jurisdictional waters will result in the total functional loss of 9.69 WRAP units.
In line with the previous USACE Permit No. SAJ-2016-00317 for the adjacent Starwood Phase 1 project site, compensatory mitigation is proposed through purchase of wetland mitigation credits at the TM Econ Mitigation Bank; this federally-approved bank’s service area covers the entire Meridian Parks – Phases 2 & 3 and School Site project area.”
The Corps is not aware of any known historic properties within the permit area, which is defined by the project boundaries, and no information was provided by the Applicant. The Florida Master Site File database indicates a cultural resource assessment survey may be required within portions of the permit area; the applicant is conducting a CRAS. 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.
ENDANGERED SPECIES: The applicant indicated no federally listed plant species occur on the project site. The Corps has completed preliminary federally listed species affect determinations which include the following:
The Corps has determined the proposed project “may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect” (NLAA) wood stork (Mycteria Americana). The proposed activity is within the Core Foraging Area (CFA) of two rookeries; the project supports Suitable Foraging Habitat (SFH) for wood stork. The Corps completed an evaluation of the project based upon the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) North Florida Ecological Services Field Offices Programmatic Concurrence for use with the Wood Stork (September 2008). Use of the Key for Wood Stork resulted in the following sequential determination: A (The project is more than 2,500 feet from a colony site.) > B (Project impacts SFH.) > C (Project impacts to SFH greater than or equal to 0.5 acres.) > D (Project impacts to SFH are within the Core Foraging Area of a colony site) > E (The determination is supported by SFH compensation provided within the service area of a mitigation bank which covers the CFA and/or provides an amount of habitat and foraging function equivalent to that of impacted SFH; is not contrary to the Service’s Habitat Management Guidelines For The Wood Stork In The Southeast Region and in accordance with the CWA Section 404(b)(1) guidelines) = NLAA. The Corps has FWS concurrence for the proposed activities through the use of the aforementioned determination key.
The Corps has determined the proposed project “may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect” the Eastern Indigo Snake (Drymarchon corais couperi). Based on the Eastern Indigo Snake Effect Determination Key (dated January 25, 2010; August 13, 2013 Addendum), the Corps determination sequence is as follows: 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 construction) > C (There are gopher tortoise burrows or other refugia.) > D (Project will impact less than 25 active and inactive burrows) > 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. If an indigo snake is encountered, the snake must be allowed to vacate the area prior to additional site manipulation in the vicinity. Permit is conditioned with the standard protection measure for the Indigo Snake) = NLAA. All gopher tortoise burrows, active or inactive, will be evacuated prior to site manipulation in the burrow vicinity. If excavating potentially occupied burrows, active or inactive, individuals must first obtain state authorization via a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agent permit. The excavation method selected should also minimize the potential for injury of an indigo snake. Holes, cavities, and snake refugia other than gopher tortoise burrows will be inspected each morning before planned site manipulation of a particular area, and if occupied by an indigo snake, no work will commence until the snake has vacated the vicinity of proposed work; the permittee agrees to use the Standard Protection Measures for the Eastern Indigo Snake (dated August 12, 2013). The Corps has USFWS concurrence for the proposed activities through use of the aforementioned determination key.
Based on existing habitat types and/or provided survey information, the Corps preliminarily determined the project will have no effect on Bluetail mole skink (Eumeces egregious lividus) and Sand skink (Neoseps reynoldsi), red-cockaded woodpecker (Leuconotopicus borealis), Everglades Snail Kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus), Audubon’s crested caracara (Polyborus plancus audubonii) and Florida scrub jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens).
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 13.9 acres of freshwater wetlands and surface waters which ultimately discharge to the Kissimmee River. Our initial determination is that the proposed action would not have a substantial adverse impact on downstream EFH or Federally managed fisheries. 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 (NMFS).
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 been verified by Corps personnel.
AUTHORIZATION FROM OTHER AGENCIES: Water Quality Certification will be required from the South Florida Water Management District.
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, Jeffrey S. Collins, in writing at the Cocoa Permits Section (address above), by electronic mail at Jeffrey.firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at (321) 504-3771.
IMPACT ON NATURAL RESOURCES: Coordination with USFWS, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the NMFS, 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 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.
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.