Rural land stewardship areas (§163.3248, F.S.)

This is a review of §163.3248, F.S., as adopted in 2011 (as part of Florida HB 7207). In this review, the language of the statute may be summarized, paraphrased, re-ordered, and/or reformatted, so refer to the full language of the bill or the official Florida Statutes for the actual statutory provisions. See here – Rural Land Stewardship Areas – for an unofficial version of the language from HB 7207.

  1. This is a new section created, in large part, from provisions in the previous §163.3177(d). See this PDF – Rural land stewardship areas provisions from previous 163.3177 – to see the transferred language.
  2. The Legislature intended that the section “be implemented pursuant to law” and prohibited rulemaking on the section. (163.3248(10), F.S.)
  3. The intent of rural land stewardship areas (RLSAs) is
    1. to establish a long-term incentive based strategy
      1. to balance and guide the allocation of land
      2. so as to accommodate future land uses in a manner that
        1. protects the natural environment,
        2. stimulate economic growth and diversification, and
        3. encourage the retention of land for agriculture and other traditional rural land uses. (163.3248(1), F.S.)
    2. to provide economic and regulatory incentives for landowners outside of established and planned urban service areas
      1. to conserve and manage vast areas of land
      2. for the benefit of the state’s citizens and natural environment
      3. while maintaining and enhancing the asset value of their landholdings. (163.3248(10), F.S.)
  4. In addition to the principles of rural sustainability RLSAs may be established to further stated in the previous language of §163.3177, F.S. (restoration and maintenance of the economic value of rural land; control of urban sprawl; identification and protection of ecosystems, habitats, and natural resources; maintenance of the viability of the state’s agricultural economy), the section adds: promotion and diversification of economic activity and employment opportunities within the rural areas; and protection of private property rights in rural areas of the state. (163.3248(3), F.S.)
  5. A RLSA overlay proposal may now be initiated by a request by property owners to the local government or by a private sector initiated plan amendment, rather than requiring an authorization from the state land planning agency. (163.3248(2), F.S.)
  6. The local government or one or more of the property owners may request assistance and participation in the development of a plan for the rural land stewardship area from the state land planning agency, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Department of Environmental Protection, the appropriate water management district, the Department of Transportation, the regional planning council, private land owners, and stakeholders. (163.3248(4), F.S.)
  7. RSLAs may be multi-county, in order to encourage coordinated regional stewardship planning. (163.3248(3), F.S.)
  8. The RLSA must still be at least 10,000 acres, be located outside of municipalities and established urban service areas and, as the new language clarifies, be designated by plan amendment by each local government with jurisdiction over the proposed RLSA. (163.3248(5), F.S.)
  9. The plan amendment(s) designating the RSLA must provide for the following:
    1. Criteria for the designation of receiving areas which, at a minimum, provide for the following:
      1. adequacy of suitable land to accommodate development so as to avoid conflict with significant environmentally sensitive areas, resources, and habitats;
      2. compatibility between and transition from higher density uses to lower intensity rural uses; and
      3. the establishment of receiving area service boundaries that provide for a transition from receiving areas and other land uses within the rural land stewardship area through limitations on the extension of services. (163.3248(5)(a), F.S.)
    2. Innovative planning and development strategies to be applied within rural land stewardship areas pursuant to this section. (163.3248(5)(b), F.S.)
    3. A process for the implementation of innovative planning and development strategies within the rural land stewardship area, which provide for a functional mix of land uses, through the adoption by the local government of zoning and land development regulations applicable to the rural land stewardship area. (163.3248(5)(c), F.S.)
    4. A mix of densities and intensities that would not be characterized as urban sprawl through the use of innovative strategies and creative land use techniques. (163.3248(5)(d), F.S.)
  10. The RSLA review may not require a demonstration of need based on population projections or any other factors. (163.3248(2), F.S.)
  11. When the plan amendment(s) creating the RLSA is adopted, the local government(s) must adopt an ordinance that establishes a rural land stewardship overlay zoning district (“RLS overlay”).
    1. Stewardship credits. The RLS overlay must provide the methodology for the creation, conveyance, and use of transferable rural land use credits (“stewardship credits”).
      1. The total amount of stewardship credits within the rural land stewardship area must enable the realization of the long-term vision and goals for the rural land stewardship area, which may take into consideration the anticipated effect of the proposed receiving areas.
      2. The assignment and application of stewardship credits does not constitute a right to develop land or increase the density of land, except as provided by the statute section. (163.3248(7), F.S.)
      3. Stewardship credits may exist only within a rural land stewardship area. (163.3248(8)(a), F.S.)
      4. Stewardship credits may be created only from lands designated as stewardship sending areas and may be used only on lands designated as stewardship receiving areas and then solely for the purpose of implementing innovative planning and development strategies and creative land use planning techniques adopted by the local government pursuant to this section. (163.3248(8)(b), F.S.)
      5. Stewardship credits assigned to a parcel of land within a rural land stewardship area will cease to exist if the parcel of land is removed from the rural land stewardship area by plan amendment. (163.3248(8)(c), F.S.)
      6. Once stewardship credits have been transferred from a designated sending area for use within a designated receiving area, the underlying density assigned to the designated sending area ceases to exist. (163.3248(8)(d), F.S.)
      7. Stewardship credits will cease to exist on a parcel of land where the underlying density assigned to the parcel of land is used. (163.3248(8)(f), F.S.)
      8. Stewardship credits may be assigned at different ratios of credits per acre according to the natural resource or other beneficial use characteristics of the land and according to the land use remaining after the transfer of credits, with the highest number of credits per acre assigned to the most environmentally valuable land or, in locations where the retention of open space and agricultural land is a priority, to such lands. (163.3248(8)(j), F.S.)
      9. Stewardship credits may be transferred from a sending area only after a stewardship easement is placed on the sending area land with assigned stewardship credits.
        1. A stewardship easement is a covenant or restrictive easement running with the land that specifies the allowable uses and development restrictions for the portion of a sending area from which stewardship credits have been transferred.
        2. The stewardship easement must be jointly held by the county and the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, a water management district, or a recognized statewide land trust. (163.3248(8)(k), F.S.)
    2. Receiving areas
      1. A receiving area may be designated only pursuant to procedures established in the local government’s land development regulations. (163.3248(6), F.S.)
      2. The estimated amount of receiving area must be projected based on available data, and the development potential represented by the stewardship credits created within the rural land stewardship area must correlate to that amount. (163.3248(7), F.S.)
      3. If receiving area designation requires the approval of the county board of county commissioners, such approval must be by resolution with a simple majority vote. (163.3248(6), F.S.)
      4. Before the commencement of development within a stewardship receiving area, a listed species survey must be performed for the area proposed for development.
        1. If listed species occur on the receiving area development site, the applicant must coordinate with each appropriate local, state, or federal agency to determine if adequate provisions have been made to protect those species in accordance with applicable regulations.
        2. In determining the adequacy of provisions for the protection of listed species and their habitats, the rural land stewardship area must be considered as a whole, and the potential impacts and protective measures taken within areas to be developed as receiving areas must be considered in conjunction with and compensated by lands set aside and protective measures taken within the designated sending areas. (163.3248(6), F.S.)
      5. An increase in the density or intensity of use on a parcel of land located within a designated receiving area may occur only through the assignment or use of stewardship credits and does not require a plan amendment. A change in the type of agricultural use on property within a rural land stewardship area is not considered a change in use or intensity of use and does not require any transfer of stewardship credits. (163.3248(8)(g), F.S.)
      6. A change in the density or intensity of land use on parcels located within receiving areas must be specified in a development order that reflects the total number of stewardship credits assigned to the parcel of land and the infrastructure and support services necessary to provide for a functional mix of land uses corresponding to the plan of development. (163.3248(8)(h), F.S.)
  12. Land within a rural land stewardship area may be removed from the rural land stewardship area through a plan amendment. (163.3248(8)(i), F.S.)
  13. Neither the creation of the rural land stewardship area by plan amendment nor the adoption of the rural land stewardship zoning overlay district by the local government may displace the underlying permitted uses or the density or intensity of land uses assigned to a parcel of land within the rural land stewardship area that existed before adoption of the plan amendment or zoning overlay district; however, once stewardship credits have been transferred from a designated sending area for use within a designated receiving area, the underlying density assigned to the designated sending area ceases to exist. (163.3248(8)(d), F.S.)
  14. The underlying permitted uses, density, or intensity on each parcel of land located within a rural land stewardship area may not be increased or decreased by the local government, except as a result of the conveyance or stewardship credits, as long as the parcel remains within the rural land stewardship area. (163.3248(8)(e), F.S.)
  15. The statute encourages the provision of other incentives to enter into rural land stewardship agreements, beyond stewardship credits, to owners of land within rural land stewardship sending areas. Such incentives may include:
    1. Opportunity to accumulate transferable wetland and species habitat mitigation credits for use or sale.
    2. Extended permit agreements.
    3. Opportunities for recreational leases and ecotourism.
    4. Compensation for the achievement of specified land management activities of public benefit, including facility siting and corridors, recreational leases, water conservation and storage, water reuse, wastewater recycling, water supply and water resource development, nutrient reduction, environmental restoration and mitigation, public recreation, listed species protection and recovery, and wildlife corridor management and enhancement.
    5. Option agreements for sale to public entities or private land conservation entities, in either fee or easement, upon achievement of specified conservation objectives. (163.3248(9), F.S.)
  16. An existing rural land stewardship area in Collier County is recognized as a statutory rural land stewardship area and afforded the incentives of the section. (163.3248(11), F.S.)
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One response to “Rural land stewardship areas (§163.3248, F.S.)

  1. Just found your blog. Thanks for the informative summary and comparison of the new and old statutes. Hopefully there will be renewed interest in Rural Land Stewardship after these tweaks. I’ve written a brief article about that on my blog at http://bit.ly/jvuFf0.

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