For the last few years the rapid loss of recreational and working waterfronts that have historically formed part of the culture of many Florida towns and cities on the coast has prompted efforts to protect such waterfronts. In both 2005 and 2006 the Florida Legislature acknowledged this problem and sought to address it. Much of the 2005 and 2006 legislation affects local governments and their comprehensive planning process. The materials presented here can assist local governments to orient themselves to the legislative changes and the legal context.
Different kinds of waterfronts represent an integral part of both Florida’s past and its future. In parts of the state the historical character of waterfronts is deeply rooted in the commercial fishing industry while other areas have long been involved in maritime commerce. In more recent history, some areas have developed a history of tourism. Each kind of waterfront has its unique appeal, desires for its future, and problems in the present. In addition, waterfronts share some challenges: stormwater impacts on water quality and displacement of historical uses for up-scale residential uses, and the concomitant rise in local property values.
The resources under the links to the left provide local communities and governments with background and information on the access, preservation of character, and water quality concerns of today’s waterfront communities in Florida.
Waterfronts: Preserving Access
Florida Law and Policy Context
Sovereignty Submerged Lands and Public Access to Florida Waters: A Policy Analysis (72kb pdf): Most land under navigable waters around Florida belongs to the State of Florida and is called “sovereign submerged land.” The Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund must manage these lands for the benefit of the public. Part of that management allows leases, under certain conditions, to individuals or private corporations. This document analyzes the possibilities of how the leasing system of sovereign submerged lands might be modified to assist in the effort to maintain public access to the waters of the State.
Property Tax Deferral as a Tool for Working Waterfronts: A Survey of Recreational and Commercial Working Waterfronts (pdf): The 2005 waterfronts legislation authorized local governments in Florida to adopt a tax deferral plan for recreational and working waterfronts within the local government’s jurisdiction. Concerns about the possible efficacy of the statutory grant of authority led the Conservation Clinic at the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law to conduct a small-scale, non-scientific survey of owners of businesses clearly falling within the definition of a recreational or commercial working waterfront. This document summarizes both the statutory tax deferral program and the responses of recreational and commercial working waterfront owners.
Local Government Tools
Waterway Access Analysis Manual: A Guide for Local Decisionmakers (1.51mb pdf): Waterfronts legislation gives local governments responsibility to develop “regulatory incentives and criteria” to protect recreational and working waterfronts. These must then be incorporated into the local government’s comprehensive plan. Additions to comprehensive plans must be supported by adequate data and analysis.
Preserving Public Access to Public Waters: A Policy Menu for Local Governments (pdf): This document provides an introduction and background legal principles for the series of policy tools in the following links. Each policy tool includes an introduction to the specific policy tool, its possible relationship to waterfronts, legal issues with use of the tool, and best policy practices.
The Water Dependency Test as a Means to Preserve Recreational and Commercial Waterfronts (pdf): Zoning plays a central role in any integrated plan of strategies to protect and preserve recreational and working waterfronts. Requirements that a land use be “water dependent” to receive approval for land use along the water has a long tradition in zoning in Florida and other states. This document looks at varying definitions of water dependency to find the best definition. In 2006 the endeavor to rationally define water dependency in a zoning scheme became much more difficult because of the Florida Legislature’s addition of hotels and motels to the definition of recreational and working waterfronts.
Waterfronts: Preserving Character
Waterfronts: Preserving Water Quality