Perpetual easements present revolutionary approach to dune projects

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There is a historic step taking place in St. Johns County and it is occurring along the Ponte Vedra Beach coastline.

It has become a regular occurrence for years that every time a storm rolls through the area causing damage to the shore by repleading the amounts of sand on the beach that act as the natural protective buffer between the ocean and those with property along the beach.

The next step after this happens is to begin the process of requesting homeowners along the effected stretch of beach to sign off on easements that would allow work to be done as part of the designated project to replenish the sand.

However, unlike in the past when the easement was only designated for that specific project, the newest proposed easement would be perpetual, which means that the easement would be good for a lifetime.

Members of the St. Johns County coastal management disaster recovery team held an open house Jan. 11 at the Ponte Vedra Beach Public Library, to provide information to the public if needed and as an opportunity to get more signatures of property owners along Ponte Vedra Beach.

“The open house was put in place to give residents the opportunity to ask questions about the project,” said Joseph Giammanco, St. Johns County emergency management director. “We sent out letters and press releases, but we also wanted to give the opportunity for residents to actually come and talk to us and get a little more face to face time so that they can see what they are actually signing.”

Notaries were on hand; in case any landowners wanted to go ahead and sign the easement on the spot.

According to Giammanco, the wording of the easement agreement could be modified in order to best suite questions or concerns that a landowner may have had.

“The intent is to have this in place so that we don’t have to come to you every time that we need an easement or something like this to do a project,” Giammanco said. “FEMA and sometimes in the response and recovery phase there is only a certain time that you have to do something. If we have a six-month window, and we have to spend four months getting easements, that only gives us two months to actually do the project.”

Even after the perpetual easement is signed, Giammanco assured that the landowners will still always be informed prior to any project taking place on their property.

“This is just a way that we can be more efficient and move forward with projects quicker,” Giammanco said.

Once a perpetual easement of a designated property is signed, the property is therefore forever bound to the easement even if the property is purchased by a new owner.

“We’re not building anything on the property or taking anything away, we’re just asking so that we can put sand on the property,” Giammanco said. “We know people are nervous when signing easement, and we get it, but at the end of the day, we’re just trying to help everyone involved.”

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