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To enhance, protect and preserve the visual environment of Florida as mandated by the Scenic Beauty clause of the Florida Constitution.

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Scenic Florida
Photo: Bob Self, Florida Times Union

State pledges to work on plan to landscape areas cleared for I-295 widening

"A state Department of Transportation administrator pledged Wednesday to work with Jacksonville beautification organizations and Mandarin residents to develop a landscaping plan for the Interstate 295 widening that cleared out acres of trees.

The transportation department didn’t commit any specific amount of spending for landscaping that stretch of highway.

For the entire state, the department spends puts aside 1.5 percent of its construction spending to do landscaping. Some individual projects get more, some get less.

The I-295 construction is an $89 million project, so 1.5 percent of that would be about $1.3 million.

City Councilman Matt Schellenberg, who represents Mandarin, said he is confident the I-295 project will get landscaping in an amount above the state average. He said the state clear-cut a 'huge canopy of trees' alongside the highway and the department should restore the community as much as possible.

'What happened has happened, and we have to move forward,' Schellenberg said.

He said he was pleased with the discussion with Jim Knight, urban planning and modal administrator for the Northeast Florida district of FDOT...

The discussion in a City Hall conference room covered topics such how to landscape a drainage pond that will be built off Scott Mill Road, the location of sound walls that will be built along the widened highway, and planting trees that will grow tall enough so residents cannot see the highway’s lights and signs from their yards.

Several people said the state should rule out planting palm trees and instead go with trees found in Northeast Florida woods.

Schellenberg and the department will schedule another meeting in a month.'
David Bauerlein, The Florida Times-Union

Grand Jury Releases Findings On Billboard Company's Illegal Tree Cutting Permits

In June 2009, Citizens for a Scenic Florida received an anonymous letter reporting that acres of trees were being cut down along I-10 and other state roads in the Panhandle without approved vegetation management plans or associated mitigation fees.  As it turned out, more than 2000 trees were "illegally removed" from state right-of-way along I-10 and other roads in the Panhandle.  The letter indicated that the trees were removed by Bill Salter Advertising Co. in order to create view zones for the company's billboards.  The letter also suggested that Salter Advertising had used the influence of then State Representative Greg Evers to broker a deal with FDOT leadership and that an FDOT employee had been ordered by the FDOT District Director of Operations James Rodgers to let Salter Advertising "do whatever they want."  In response to public records requests by Citizens for a Scenic Florida and the St. Pete Times, no documents provided by FDOT confirmed any communications on the subject between then Representative Evers, then FDOT Secretary Stephanie Kopelousos, and then FDOT Deputy Secretary Kevin Thibault.  In response to a public records request made in 2010 (by a citizen in St. Petersburg) for all emails to and from Secretary Kopelousos for a given period, among the thousands of documents provided by FDOT were emails revealing such communication between Evers, Kopelousos and Thibault. Other emails turned up later when the original records requests were repeated verbatim in 2011. This information was forwarded to the State Attorney for the Second Judicial Circuit and subsequently reviewed by a Grand Jury. The Grand Jury called it a debacle.

* Grand Jury Presentment (report)

* Grand Jury Presentment Attachments

* Citizens for a Scenic Florida Press Release

* Citizens for a Scenic Florida letter to Governor Scott

* Citizens for a Scenic Florida letter to FDOT Secretary

FDOT letter (dated 2-22-2012) to Bill Salter Advertising, Inc.