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Conservation plan to add $800,000 to cost of Festival Park

By Staff | Apr 17, 2010

Scrub jay mitigation at Festival Park is going to cost the city just under $800,000 as part of a habitat conservation plan.
The birds, listed as a federally threatened species, occupy 74.8 acres of the 215 acre Festival Park.
The mitigation is required by the U.S. Fish and Willife Service to develop the Festival Park land area.
The city will work in conjunction with the county’s Conservation 20/20 program as part of the effort, participating in an long-term restoration of 20/20 land known to be inhabited by scrub jays.
City planning technician Lori Blydenburgh said although the city is spending money, they’ll save more than $3 million in the long run.
Without the mitigation, she said, the city would be required to pay $4 million into a federal mitigation fund.
“It would cost the city $4 million, and that price would go up annually,” Blydenburgh said. “We would end up paying a lot more money.”
The Florida scrub jay is the only species in the city listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife as threatened, according to Blydenburgh.
The USFWS has given the city $151,450 in grant money to fund the habitat conservation plan, which Blydenburgh has been working on for roughly a year.
The city can’t do anything with the Festival Park land, when officials eventually decide to develop, unless a mitigation plan is in place for the scrub jays.
Mayor John Sullivan said leaning on conservation 20/20 land is saving the city money as well, despite having to spend nearly $800,000.
“It’s a big cost savings even though we have to put up a big chunk of money,” Sullivan said. “It saves us a lot of money rather than having to buy land somewhere.”
City council is set to hear a presentation on the habitat conservation plan during its workshop on Monday, but won’t vote on a direction for staff until the following week.
Councilmember Pete Brandt said he wants staff to make sure the three scrub jay families documented in the plan actually are still occupying portions of Festival Park before he makes a decision.
Brandt said he didn’t know when staff last had a first-hand look at the scrub jays.
“I don’t know when the last check was made but I’m hoping we’ll do one last check to see if they’re still there,” Brandt said.
City council meets at 4:30 p.m. in city hall.