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Wakulla Environmentalists Move Forward With Petition As Commission Continues To Debate Ordinance

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R.Benk
/
WFSU-News

After first voting to completely repeal a wetlands protection ordinance, Wakulla County commissioners now say they’ll try to amend the existing ordinance instead. But, environmentalists say amendment is tantamount to repeal.

The amendment would remove language from the wetlands ordinance requiring a 75- foot buffer zone around wetlands but still keep the ordinance in place. The Wakulla Wetlands Alliance hopes a countywide ballot initiative can stop any repeal or amendment of the ordinance or the comprehensive plan. Wakulla County Commissioner Howard Kessler, a supporter of the group and the lone dissenter in recent votes on the issue, argues a decision to modify the county’s comprehensive plan should be left up to voters.

“If we gather 5,600 signatures it will – and if those signatures are verified to be good – it will go on the ballot November 2014 and it will give the citizens the right to vote whether they want the wetlands ordinance that exists right now to be reinstituted in our county’s laws,” Kessler explained.

If the petition makes it to the ballot and is approved by voters in November, the Wakulla County Commission would only be able to repeal wetland protections with a unanimous vote. The petition needs signatures from 30-percent of the 18,000 Wakulla County voters within the next five months to make it to November.