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 ±1,923-acre Meridian Parks Remainder 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 Sections 2 & 3, Township 24 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 east of SR 417 and Innovation Way, south of SR 528, west of International Corporate Park, and north of Wewahootee Road.
APPROXIMATE CENTRAL COORDINATES: Latitude: 28.436903
Basic: multi-use development
Overall: Development of a mixed-use residential and commercial/retail community within the eastern half of Orange County, Florida.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION: The proposed Meridian Parks Remainder project is a mixed-use development (residential and commercial/retail) located within an overall mixed-use Planned Development (PD) known as Starwood. The initial phase of Starwood was previously authorized under SAJ-2016-00317 by two standard permits.
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 211 – Improved Pasture
This upland association is characterized by open pasture lacking significant canopy. This area is dominated by a ground cover of bahiagrass, bermudagrass, crabgrass, and dog fennel. This area is utilized as improved 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, staggerbush and greenbrier. 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, various scrub oak species, wire grass, broomsedge, staggerbush, and greenbrier. These areas are utilized as unimproved, forested pastureland for cattle.
FLUCCS 346 – Upland Scrub, Pine and Hardwoods
This upland association is characterized by a canopy of sand live oak, live oak and sand pine. The understory consists primarily of saw palmetto, rusty staggerbush, shiny blueberry, bracken fern, and wiregrass. These areas are utilized as unimproved, forested pastureland for cattle.
FLUCCS 740 – Disturbed Land
These uplands are comprised of areas of historically improved pasture converted for the storage of heavy equipment, vehicles, and facilities associated with a land management operation. The groundcover is dominated by bahiagrass with scattered live oaks.
FLUCCS 830 – Utilities
This land use consists of an area utilized by the Florida Gas Transmission Co LLC.
A total of 718.40 acres of wetlands and surface waters occur on-site and include:
FLUCCS 621 – Cypress
The site contains several strands of swampland dominated by bald cypress. Additional dominant species within these freshwater swamps include sweetbay, Virginia chain fern, royal fern, cinnamon fern, spikerush, marsh pennywort, sawgrass, soft rush, smartweed, spadeleaf, wax myrtle, saw palmetto, and poison ivy.
FLUCCS 630 – Wetland Forested Mixed
The landward margins of the cypress communities are dominated by loblolly bay. Additional dominant species within these freshwater swamps include pond pine, red maple, sweetbay, gallberry, bushy bluestem, Virginia chain fern, royal fern, cinnamon fern, spikerush, marsh pennywort, sawgrass, soft rush, smartweed, spadeleaf, saw palmetto, and poison ivy.
FLUCCS 641 – Freshwater Marsh
Several areas throughout the site are characterized by herbaceous vegetation lacking significant canopy. These areas are dominated by a ground cover of dense bushy bluestem, pickerelweed, spikerush, arrowhead, marsh pennywort, maidencane, and beakrush.
FLUCCS 643 – Wet Prairie
Several wet prairie wetland systems are located throughout the site, and are 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, maidencane, bushy bluestem, St. John’s wort, spikerush, gallberry, saw palmetto, marsh pennywort, cinnamon fern, Virginia chain fern, sawgrass, soft rush, smartweed, spadeleaf, and occasional slash pine.
PROPOSED WORK: The applicant seeks authorization to fill 115.38 acres of waters of the United States for the construction of a mixed-use residential and commercial retail development on the ±1,923-acre Meridian Parks Remainder 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:
“Several design configurations were evaluated during the planning of the proposed development to avoid and minimize wetland impacts to the greatest extent practicable. This included avoiding impacts to the higher quality cypress wetland systems throughout the site. Proposed impacts are limited to the lower quality ecotone areas that are fire suppressed and provide less wetland function. These ecotone areas have been altered by past land management practices evident by remnant fire lines, the lack of mature trees, and a dense sub-canopy bay tree dominance throughout.
Approximately 33.27 acres of direct wetland impacts (W3-3, W5-1, W5-2, W5-9, W5-10, W9, W13, W14, W-16, W17, W7-1, W7-5, W7-13, W7-15, W7-21, W7-24, W7-33, W7-38) are required to construct roads to access the various upland areas. Roads were designed to cross wetlands at the narrowest point so as to minimize impacts to wetland function. Approximately 18.84 acres of direct wetland impacts (W3-2, W5-3, W5-5, W5-8, W16, W19, W7-2, W7-25, W7-26, W7-2, SW-6) are required to construct a stormwater management system to serve the development.
The remaining ±63.23 acres of direct wetland impacts are required to construct residential lots and commercial/retail centers, approximately 10.70 acres of which are impacts to isolated and non-jurisdictional wetlands. Wetland impacts to 53.53 acres of jurisdictional wetland fringe is justified by the need to provide the development with the proper road alignments and to achieve the desired number of lots to make a viable product. The site geometry was based on avoidance of the larger contiguous wetland systems throughout the site. The meandering wetland line posed significant design challenges to the lot layout and road alignments of the development. The final plan was chosen based on its ability to avoid the larger wetland systems and minimize impacts to higher quality systems, while providing a viable development.”
COMPENSATORY MITIGATION: The applicant has offered the following compensatory mitigation plan to offset unavoidable functional loss to the aquatic environment:
“Mitigation to offset wetland functional loss incurred via the project’s direct and secondary wetland impacts will consist of the purchase of 85.22 federal credits from the Reedy Creek Mitigation Bank.”
The Corps is not aware of any known historic properties 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.
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:
Wood Stork - 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.
Eastern Indigo Snake - 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 more than 25 active and inactive burrows but there are no eastern indigo snake observations within 0.62 mile of the project boundary ) > 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. The Corps has USFWS concurrence for the proposed activities through use of the aforementioned determination key.
Sand Skink - The project site is within the consultation area for sand skink (Neoseps reynoldsi). 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. The sand skink exists in areas vegetated with sand pine (Pinus clausa) - rosemary (Ceratiola ericoides) scrub or a long leaf pine (Pinus palustris) - turkey oak (Quercus laevis) association. All properties within the limits of this consultation area that are located at elevations greater than 80’ and contain suitable (moderate-to-well drained) soils are believed by FWS to be areas of potential sand skink habitat.
During April and May of 2017, the applicant’s consultant conducted a formal coverboard sand skink survey on the subject site pursuant to the FWS’s Sand and Bluetail Mole Skink Conservation Guidelines (February 6, 2012). The 2017 survey included the entire CSP Starwood DRI site. Surveys were conducted for five consecutive weeks on each site, starting on March 29, 2017 and ending on May 15, 2017. Survey dates were chosen, whenever possible, for their optimal weather conditions (i.e., warm, sunny, dry conditions). The portions of the subject site that met the elevation and soils requirements were sampled. No evidence of the sand skink was observed during the survey. The subject site is not located on or near a sandy ridge of Central Florida, where sand skink are typically found. The areas of the site with suitable elevation and soil types are located in scattered patches throughout the site and the site is isolated by large wetlands. Based on the results of the sand skink survey, the Corps determined the proposed activity would have “no effect” on sand skink.
Florida scrub-jay - The project is in the consultation area for Florida scrub-jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens). Based on existing habitat types and/or provided survey information, the Corps preliminarily determined the project will have no effect on Florida scrub-jay. Florida scrub-jay are largely restricted to scattered, often small and isolated patches of sand pine scrub, xeric oak, scrubby flatwoods, and scrubby coastal stands in peninsular Florida. They avoid wetlands and forests, including canopied sand pine stands. Optimal Scrub-jay habitat is dominated by shrubby scrub, live oaks, myrtle oaks, or scrub oaks from 1 to 3 m (3 to 10 ft.) tall, covering 50% to 90 % of the area; bare ground or sparse vegetation less than 15 cm (6 in) tall covering 10% to 50% of the area; and scattered trees with no more than 20% canopy cover.
The applicant’s consultant conducted a formal Florida scrub-jay survey across the subject site from October 15-19, 2018. Much of the subject site is pine flatwoods and forested wetlands with little to no scrub oaks; however there are scattered patches of scrub habitat throughout the subject property. As such, scrub-Jay survey stations were systematically placed along open sandy roads adjacent to scrub oak habitat. During the 5-day survey, weather conditions were favorable for the Florida scrub-jay to be active and react to the vocalization playback. There were no Florida scrub-jay observed at any of the forty-four (44) playback stations. Based on the results of the formal Florida scrub-jay survey, the Corps determined the proposed activity will have No Effect on the Florida Scrub-Jay
Other Listed Species
Suitable habitat is absent for red-cockaded woodpecker (Leuconotopicus borealis), Everglades Snail Kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus), and Audubon’s crested caracara (Polyborus plancus audubonii), and none of these species were observed during monitoring throughout the project site. The Corps determined the project would have no effect on these species.
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 115.38 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 15 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, John Baehre, in writing at the Cocoa Permits Section (address above), by electronic mail at John.M.Baehre@usace.army.mil, or by telephone at (321) 504-3771 x13.
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.