- 2011 - November - 7th -

DEP chief aims for consistency, certainty

by David Chapman, Staff Writer

Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard said Friday his priorities are to ensure greater regulatory certainty and consistency.

He also said he wants to “get the water right” in both quantity and quality and to increase access to state parks.

Vinyard, who has been on the job about 10 months, spoke to the NAIOP Northeast Florida Chapter meeting. He said that his “hair has been on fire since day one,” but he’s learned a lot since his appointment.

“I’m a firm believer that environmental protection and growth go hand in hand,” he told almost 80 members of the area commercial real estate trade association in attendance.

Vinyard is a former BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards executive and a former attorney and shareholder with Jacksonville-based Smith, Hulsey & Busey.

Business owners seeking environmental permits often face different restrictions and methods to acquire them from water management districts across the state, he said.

Ensuring and enforcing uniform guidelines will help business owners save both time and money, he said.

Vinyard asked members of the organization to support upcoming legislation for uniformity of the state Environmental Resource Permits that regulate activities involving surface water flow alterations. He said its passage will “give you more certainty.”

Vinyard also sought input from the group on ways to raise revenue for the department and manage state land.

The Documentary Stamp Tax is levied at a rate of 70 cents per $100 on documents that transfer interest in Florida real property, but not much revenue has been collected during the economic downturn, he said.

Vinyard said purchasing land for the state costs about $300 million a year and debt service alone next year will be $418 million, which documentary stamp revenue likely will not cover in full.

He also told the group that his boss, Gov. Rick Scott, has been “focused on jobs like nobody” he has ever seen.

Vinyard asked the group of developers and commercial and industrial real estate industry professionals to let him know of any out-of-town companies who want to expand in the state and he would pass word on to Scott and other economic development officials.

Vinyard said he wanted feedback, good or bad, about his department from those who interact with it. “If I have a problem, I need to know about it,’ he said.

The department’s website has an online customer service survey that Vinyard encouraged the real estate professionals to complete. Results are important to find out what the department is doing both right and wrong, he said.

“I read every one of them,’ he said.




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