BLUE BELT AMENDMENT
On the November ballot, along with
the presidential election, will be a new
amendment to the Florida Constitution.
It is called the "Blue Belt Amendment,"
and will give tax breaks to owners of
acreage in high water recharge areas that
keep their land undeveloped.
Henry Swanson, retired Orange Coun-
ty agricultural agent, has been fighting
for the preservation of water recharge
areas for several years. One acre of high
recharge land, he says, can return 420,000
gallons of rain water into groundwater
aquifers. This supplies the water needs of
five people for a year. Florida needs to re-
tain these vital acres as "water producers."
Ralph Sias, a professional engineer liv-
ing in west Orange County, has written a
paper of his observations of the high
recharge area where he lives. He states
that these areas can be defined and iden-
tified, and usually include the sinkhole
lakes in the high land areas where dead
orange groves now are being rapidly con-
verted to development. He says the soil
around the recharge lakes is "eminently
suited to recharging the Floridan Aquifer,
because it is mostly pure sand overlying
the limestone through which the aquifer
flows. There is little underlying clay -
the lakes are mud sealed, and the land
around them will not hold standing water."
Sias goes on to say, "Some lakes do not
change greatly in elevation over the years,
while others go up and down at a rapid
rate. The lakes that vary greatly in their
water level are the lakes that are con-
tinuously feeding much of their water into
the aquifer. The lakes whose surfaces re-
main more stable are well-sealed with
clay, and vary their level mostly with the
rainfall and evapotranspiration:'
Swanson says, "Florida law calls for the
Property Appraiser to assess undevel-
oped land at fair market value. As real
estate values escalate, so do taxes. Unde-
veloped high recharge lands are caught up
in a tax squeeze. These "water producing"
lands are presently looked upon as liabil-
ities rather than assets to the community.
The Blue Belt Constitutional Amendment
would have them assessed similar to
agricultural lands, at a lower rate because
of their resource use.
He argues that owners of high recharge
lands are producing water for the general
welfare, not using it. Furthermore, they
are deriving no income from their non-
profit use of their land and use no govern-
ment services. So a low tax is in line with
the user's tax concept.
The Florida House and Senate have
presented a joint resolution proposing
Page 12, Summer 1988, FLORIDA NATURAL]
recharge to Florida's aquifers may be
classified by general law and assessed
solely on the basis of character or use:'
Be sure to vote for this amendment.
that the amendment appear on the
November ballot, as follows: "Assess-
ment of High Water Recharge Lands pro-
vides that land producing high water