Turnbull Creek Water Quality, Wildlife Habitat, and Natural Areas Protection Bonds

Overview

Turnbull Sunset

Photo: Turnbull Creek at sunset.

On the 2018 general election ballot this November 6, voters in New Smyrna Beach will be asked to vote on whether to give the City Commission authority to issue up to $15 million in general obligation bonds to protect water quality, wildlife habitat, and natural areas from development by acquiring land along the Turnbull Creek watershed.

Turnbull Creek was selected for its environmental sensitivity as a critical waypoint for waters flowing north into Turnbull Bay, Spruce Creek, the Indian River, and Atlantic Ocean and its historical significance as “Andrew Turnbull’s Grand Canal” during our area’s British colonial period.   Any land acquired, including those portions of land currently zoned for development, would instead be set aside and protected in its natural state.

For a 13 minute video presentation covering the highlights of this municipal referendum, please click on the video below.

Please see below for the official language you can expect to see on your general election ballot.

CITY OF NEW SMYRNA BEACH MUNICIPAL REFERENDUM

Turnbull Creek Water Quality, Wildlife Habitat, and Natural Areas Protection Bonds

To protect water quality by preventing pollution in Turnbull Creek and Bay, Spruce Creek, the Indian River, and the Atlantic Ocean and preserve wildlife habitat and natural areas from development by acquiring land along Turnbull Creek, shall the City of New Smyrna Beach issue general obligation bonds at rates not exceeding the maximum legal rate, maturing within 30 years, not exceeding $15 million payable from ad valorem taxes with full public disclosure of all spending?

□ YES, FOR BONDS     □ NO, AGAINST BONDS

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Important 2018 General Election Dates

Vote-by-Mail Ballot 'Send' Deadline: October 2 - 9

Early Voting Period: October 27 - November 4

Election Day: November 6

Please visit www.volusiaelections.org to register and get more information on the 2018 general election.

Click here to view a sample ballot for the 2018 general election.  You'll find this item at the bottom of the right column on page 2 under "City of New Smyrna Beach Municipal Referendum."

Walking Tours and Information Booth

Turbidity Tube

Photo: Marine Discovery Center Executive Director Chad Truxall explains how a turbidity tube measures water clarity after collecting a sample from Turnbull Creek to walking tour-goers lined along the multi-use trail bridge above him.

The City has scheduled four guided walking tours, free and open to the public, to allow voters to see some of the proposed preservation sites up close for themselves.  Subject matter speakers from the Marine Discovery Center, New Smyrna Beach Museum of History, and other institutions will be on hand to provide information on local plant and wildlife and offer insights into how the Turnbull Canal System came to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its role as “Andrew Turnbull’s Grand Canal” during our area’s British colonial period.  There will be four tours during the month of October scheduled on Saturday mornings and Monday evenings to accommodate different schedules.

  • Saturday, October 6 (8:30-10:00 AM)
  • Saturday, October 13 (8:30-10:00 AM)
  • Monday, October 15 (5:30-7:00 PM)
  • Monday, October 22 (5:30-7:00 PM)

Walking tours map

Tours will begin at the picnic pavilion in Holland Park (357 Otter Blvd) and first proceed east along the New Smyrna Beach Multi-Use Trail to the bridge which passes over Turnbull Creek (0.5 miles roundtrip).  After returning to Holland Park, you have the option to continue on own south along Otter Blvd and then east until finishing with another peek at Turnbull Creek from the bridge on Jungle Rd (1.25 miles roundtrip).

An information booth will also be set up at the New Smyrna Beach Farmers Market in front of City Hall (210 Sams Avenue) on the following dates:

  • Saturday, October 20 (7:00 AM-12:00 PM)
  • Saturday, October 27 (7:00 AM-12:00 PM)

Voter Information Resources

☀ Curious about which parcels on Turnbull Creek would be under consideration?  Take a look at the images below for a quick glance and download the PDF versions of the Northern Section and Southern Section to zoom in for a closer look.  Target parcel boundaries are highlighted in magenta.  The orange parcels (e.g. airport and sports complex at the top of the Northern Section) are already owned by the City.

Northern Section

Turnbull Creek Watershed - Northern

Southern Section

Turnbull Creek Watershed - Southern

☀ If approved, a portion of the bonds issued would serve as matching funds for a grant from the Florida Community Trust's Parks and Open Space Program to acquire the first property for conservation.  Click here to read the full 201-page application package submitted by City staff.

☀ Did you know that Turnbull Creek is listed on the National Register of Historic Places?  Click here to see the National Park Service's file containing historical background information and illustrative maps.

☀ Travel back in time to listen in on what was said about the Turnbull Creek Land Preservation Project from initial proposal to ballot language approval at past City Commission meetings and download related materials presented at each one.

June 12, 2018: Click here and scan ahead to 7:30 for Presentation regarding the proposed Turnbull Creek Watershed Preservation Lands Initiative and receive technical advice and assistance from the Trust for Public Land (TPL).

July 24, 2018: Click here to view minutes which reference a Presentation: Trust for Public Lands-Status Update on Proposed General Obligation (G.O.) Bond for Turnbull Creek Watershed Land Preservation.  For an audio file of this presentation, please submit a request via the 'Submit a Question' form below.

August 14, 2018: Click here and scan ahead to 2:03:50 for Resolution No. 29-18: Consider the adoption of a resolution authorizing the November 6, 2018 ballot verbiage for the proposed $15,000,000 General Bond Obligation to purchase conservation lands along the Turnbull Creek Watershed

☀ Curious to see what local news outlets have said about the Turnbull Creek Protection Bonds?

☀ Click here to read a Pensacola News Journal editorial titled Florida's environment at historic crossroads.

☀ Volusia County Council directed staff to coordinate four public meetings around the county to present findings from the recent updated Impact Fee Study by Duncan & Associates and allow for public input on the direction Council should take regarding possibly raising impact fees.  Click here to find out more.

☀ Interested in learning more about the land conservation and the broader environmental challenges facing our state?  Click here or on the cover image below to read Trouble in Paradise: Six Key Issues to Tackle Florida's Environmental Challenges.

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Questions & Answers

If you have a question or would like to request a presentation at your organization's next meeting, please click here and fill out the form.  Someone will reach out to you as soon as possible.

Q: What are the Turnbull Creek Water Quality, Wildlife Habitats, and Natural Areas Protection Bonds?

A: On the November 6 general election ballot, New Smyrna Beach voters will be able to vote on whether to approve bonds to preserve land along Turnbull Creek to protect water quality, wildlife habitat, and natural areas.  New Smyrna Beach has an opportunity to protect one of its undeveloped natural areas.  Acquiring land along Turnbull Creek for preservation will protect water quality by helping prevent pollution from entering Turnbull Creek and Bay, Spruce Creek, the Indian River and the Atlantic Ocean.  Preserving this land will also protect wildlife habitat and preserve natural areas from development.

Q: How will protecting land along Turnbull Creek benefit the residents of New Smyrna Beach?

 A: Protecting Turnbull Creek from development has the potential to:

  • Prevent pollution from entering our rivers, inlets, and the Atlantic Ocean
  • Protect the water quality of Turnbull Bay, Spruce Creek, and the Indian River
  • Preserve wildlife habitats and natural areas from development
  • Preserve historical Turnbull Creek area

Q: What land will be protected along Turnbull Creek?  Where is Turnbull Creek?

A: If approved by voters, funds would be used to preserve land to protect the water quality of Turnbull Creek.  Turnbull Creek runs under State Road 44, west of Mission Road, and east of I-95.  It flows north into Spruce Creek, which goes into the Indian River.  The area targeted for land preservation held by private owners is approximately 519 acres.   Lands will be purchased from willing sellers only.  All state and local requirements for appraisals will be followed.  Lands within the Turnbull Creek watershed will be prioritized for acquisition based on environmental significance and potential for development.

Q: How much money will be raised?

A: If approved by voters, the bonds will generate up to $15 million.  The City of New Smyrna Beach has applied for $3.64 million in matching funds from Florida Communities Trust to preserve land along Turnbull Creek to protect water quality.  The City will also seek matching funds from Volusia County for Turnbull Creek land preservation.  These grants would provide funding to purchase additional properties along the Creek beyond the $15 million bonds issue.

Q: What’s the bottom line?  If approved, how much will my taxes go up?

 A: As an example which was presented to the City Commission to address this issue, assuming the full $15 million bond issue occurs at once to mature in 20 years, a full-time resident with an assessed home value of $171,383 could expect to pay $29.53 per year, or $2.48 per month.  There are a number of different factors that go into determining cost to the individual taxpayer such as the assessed value of your home, whether you are a full-time or seasonal resident, and the terms of the bond issue.

Q: How much will the land along Turnbull Creek cost?

 A: Determining the actual purchase price of any property is subject to appraisals.  The City will follow all state and local land acquisition procedures.  Land values will be determined by professional real estate appraisals.  Environmental audits, title work, boundary surveys, and investigations related to archaeological resources, wetlands and rare/threatened/endangered species are a normal part of an acquisition of this type. 

Q: What is the Trust for Public Land?  Why are they involved?

A: The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that has helped preserve over 200,000 acres of beaches, wetlands, and other natural areas in Florida.  Projects that the Trust for Public Land has helped protect from private development in our area include Andy Romano Beachfront Park in Ormond Beach, Marineland in Flagler County, and the historic Fort Mose in St. Johns County.  The Trust for Public Land was also one of the lead organizations in passing Amendment 1 in November 2014, the Water and Land Amendment, which passed with 75 percent voter approval statewide.  The Trust for Public Land is working with private landowners and the City to help preserve the land along Turnbull Creek.  For more information, please visit www.tpl.org

Q: How will I know the money will be wisely spent?

A: If approved by voters, accountability measures will be in place.  There will be full public disclosure of all spending for Turnbull Creek land preservation.  The City is seeking state and county matching funds.  There will be an annual independent audit of how funds are spent published on the City website.  The land would be purchased for no more than the current fair market value.  City regulations require independent appraisals of all property to be acquired.

Q: Why do we need to do this now?

A: New Smyrna Beach is growing and developing.  The Turnbull Creek area is one of the few remaining undeveloped natural areas and wildlife habitats left in New Smyrna Beach.  If it not protected now, it may be lost forever to development.  Preserving land along Turnbull Creek, and other rivers, creeks, and bays, in New Smyrna Beach can help prevent water pollution.

Q: Why can’t the City pay for this some other way?  Why do we need to have a referendum?

A: New Smyrna Beach does not have $15 million to buy land, preserve wildlife habitat, and help protect water quality. The City now has the opportunity to protect one of New Smyrna’s natural areas from development.  If voters approve the bonds, a dedicated fund would be established for Turnbull Creek land preservation.  Bonds would provide the City with funds upfront to take advantage of these lands being available.  Placing this measure on the ballot gives New Smyrna voters a chance to decide whether or not they want to preserve Turnbull Creek’s water quality and wildlife habitat.

Q: Why can’t we just regulate development along Turnbull Creek and tell developers they aren’t allowed to build there anymore?

A: Unfortunately, much of the land along Turnbull Creek has already been approved for development.  The best way to protect much of the land along Turnbull Creek is to buy it and place it into permanent protected status.

Several of the most significant vacant properties were granted land use and zoning approvals many years ago and could be developed now without additional land use authorization from the City Commission.  As a result, land that is not preserved may be developed.

See below for an example of a zoning map of some currently undeveloped target parcels near Holland Park.  The R-1, R-2, and R-3A designations indicate they are zoned for residential development of single and two-family homes (see legend at bottom right for more details).  If the ballot measure is approved, the City would seek to instead set aside and protect these natural areas.Zoning Map - Turnbull Land
Q: What guarantee do citizens have that the City won’t rezone and sell the land when financial times get tough?

A: If approved by the voters, once the bonds are sold and used to funds the purchase of land, the City is then bound by the bond covenants.  The bonds can only be used for conservation of land along Turnbull Creek and for no other purpose.  If City violated these bond covenants it would cause the City to have to pay much higher interest rates when it borrowed in the future and impact the City’s ability to borrow money again for any purpose.  State matching funds for Turnbull Creek preservation also require that the land be preserved forever.  If the City used the land for any other purpose, title to the land would revert to the State.  Matching funds from Volusia County also provide similar protections.  If desired by citizens, the City could adopt even greater safeguards, such as placing deed restrictions of the property, placing a conservation easement on the property, or by creating a registry of protected public places that would require that any change of use or sale be submitted to the citizens for a vote.

The City has been very successful in acquiring over 171 acres of land with state and county grants.  Examples are below.

  • Indian River Lagoon Park: 114 acres
  • Holland Park: 41 acres
  • Grayce K. Barck North Beach Community Park: 12.8 acres
  • Esther Street Beachfront Park: 1.9 acres
  • Marianne Clancy Park: 1.7 acres

Q: What is a general obligation bond?

A: Bonds are a form of borrowing.  Bond holders purchase the bonds now and the city guarantees they will be paid back at a set amount in the future.  General obligation bonds must be approved by the voters.  These bonds would provide the City with sufficient funds now to take advantage of the opportunity to purchase the land.  The cost is shared not only by taxpayers who will enjoy the land and water now, but also by over the length of the bond issue.

The bonds will state exactly that the funds are to be used for preservation and can only be used for that stated purpose.  The bonds restrict the City’s ability to do anything beyond preservation.

Q: What will happen if the bonds do not pass?

A: The City of New Smyrna Beach does not have $15 million in funds to purchase the land if voters do not approve the bonds.  The City’s application to the Florida Communities Trust for state matching funds would be withdrawn and the land along Turnbull Creek would in all likelihood be developed in the near future.

Q: Whose idea was this anyway?

A: Many citizens of New Smyrna Beach have approached the elected officials with concerns about development of natural land in our community at our monthly Coastal Community Resiliency sessions, City Commission meetings, and on walking tours with City staff and elected officials.  The City has heard repeatedly from its citizens that something must be done protect New Smyrna Beach’s water quality, wildlife habitat, natural areas, and quality of life in the face of new development is area.  The City has been successful with other acquisitions and this is the next logical step.

Q: How do I vote on the Turnbull Creek Water Quality, Wildlife Habitat, Natural Areas Protection Bonds?

A: It will be on this year's general election ballot on Election Day this November 6.  You can also request an absentee ballot or vote early from October 27 until November 4 at New Smyrna Beach Regional Library (1001 S Dixie Freeway) or several other locations.  Polls are open from 7:00 AM until 7:00 P.M.  For more information, you can reach the Supervisor of Elections at (386) 423-3311 or visit their website at www.volusiaelections.org

Q: I would like the name of the developer we would be purchasing this land from as well as the price the developer paid for the land.  I do not feel a developer should buy wetlands and profit by using possible development as a tool.

A: There are numerous private property owners within the 519 acres of privately owned land in the Turnbull Creek basin. The national not-for-profit Trust for Public Land and the City will obtain two independent appraisals which determine fair market value of properties to be purchased before making a formal offer.

Q: If the two independent appraisals have not yet been done, how did we arrive at the $15 million price? And could you please provide the names of the two largest property owners and how many acres of the 514* acres they own?

A: The $15 million was based on the overall debt service payment for a $15 million bond issue on an annual tax bill, not costs for actual property. Property owner information can be found directly on the Volusia County Property Appraiser’s website (https://vcpa.vcgov.org/index.html). The City’s website has maps from the Turnbull Creek Watershed Study with properties noted within the area.

(*The area targeted for land preservation held by private owners is approximately 519 acres.)

Q: Who will have legal title to this property? What is Turnbull Land LLC and who are the controlling shareholders? Why are we buying property that is already owned by the City?

A: After any property is acquired by the Trust for Public Land, its title will be transferred to the City. Turnbull Land, LLC is the owner of a 157.2 acre site, which is only part of the 519 acres privately owned along the Turnbull Creek watershed. For further information about Turnbull Land, LLC please visit www.sunbiz.org and click on the ‘Search Records’ tab. The City has targeted only privately owned properties along Turnbull Creek for acquisition and are not buying properties we already own (City, County, and FDOT owned properties are highlighted on the maps available under Voter Information Resources).

Q: How much of this covers from the Turnbull Bay canal east and south of Pioneer Trail? Rumor has it that there is a large development going in that area.

A: Please refer to the southern map posted under ‘Voter Information Resources’ to see coverage east of Turnbull Canal and south of Pioneer Trail. On the subject of proposed large developments, a corporation named Turnbull Land, LLC is moving forward with a proposed two-phase, 308-lot development named Turnbull Trace on 157.2 acres of wooded land currently zoned for residential development. As of this posting, they have acquired an environmental stormwater permit from St. Johns Water Management District.  Click here to view the permit.

Should voters approve the Turnbull Creek Water Quality, Wildlife Habitat, and Natural Areas Protection Bonds, the Trust for Public Land and the City would have the ability to negotiate with developers to purchase the land in its current natural state and designate it for conservation in perpetuity.  If the bonds are not approved, the land along Turnbull Creek could be developed under the City’s current zoning map as single and two-family homes.  Click here to view the City's zoning map.

Of note in this particular case, Turnbull Land, LLC has provided a Willing Owner Statement which indicates they are willing to entertain a purchase offer.  Click here to view the Willing Owner Statement.