Development Review

Application Review

Our Role

The Environmental Development Review Section reviews all proposed development applications including Comprehensive Plan Amendments, Rezonings, Commercial Projects and Single Family Residential for compliance with the environmental components of the County’s Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code. The key issues include upland buffers for wetlands, listed species protection, County protected habitats and species, tree protection, and landscaping.

Land Development Code Environmental Sections

  • County Natural Resource Regulations are in Article IV of the Land Development Code.
  • The St. Johns County Development Review Manual is a supplemental guide to the regulations within the Land Development Code.

Scheduling an Inspection

Building Department Automated Inspection Codes
Call (904) 827-6842 and follow the instructions as prompted.

  • Residential Upland Buffer/Conservation Area Inspection
    Enter Inspection Code 903
  • Final Residential Landscaping Inspection
    Enter Inspection Code 126
  • As-built Landscaping Inspection
    As-built inspections are automatically scheduled upon submittal of As-built Paving and Drainage Plans to Development Services

Beach Lighting

  • Sea Turtle Lighting Inspections
    Call the Beach Lighting Officer (904) 209-0323
    Enter Inspection Code 190
Land Clearing / Landscaping

County Code

  • Commercial and Subdivision requirements are found in section 4.01.05 and section 6.06 and are outlined in Section 13 of the Development Review Manual.
  • Single Family Residential requirements are found in section 4.01.05 and are outlined in Section 17 of the Development Review Manual.

Do I need a permit to clear land in St. Johns County?

Any type of land disturbance activities involving vegetation removal, root raking or under brushing may need a permit from the county prior to starting. The issues involved in the review of the activity include proposed changes in drainage patterns, identification and protection of protected species, erosion and sedimentation control measures.

Can I clear my lot to build a home?

Lot clearing for residential home sites is permitted through the clearance sheet process. Clearance sheet application information can be found in section 17 of the St. Johns County Development Review Manual.

What is the minimum tree cover or planting requirements on my lot when I build my home?

To maximize the retention of trees, a valuable natural resource of the community, the lot owner should use existing trees to meet this requirement, however the minimum can also be met with planting trees. A tally of 40 tree inches per acre must be preserved or planted on a lot. For example, if a lot is .25 acres, 10 inches of trees must be preserved or planted on the lot. To get the inch value of any existing tree, measure its diameter at 4.5 feet from ground level. To get the diameter, measure the circumference of the trunk or add together multi-trunked trees and divide by 3.14. For planted tree size, measure the diameter of the trunk or add together multi-trunked trees at 6 inches above the ground. For tree plantings, at least 70% must be a “canopy type” and no more than half of the total can be the same species. Also, at least half must be native species. Trees located within wetland areas or invasive trees cannot be used for credit value. Typical canopy trees include Live Oak, Red Maple, Hickory, Red Cedar, Cypress, Slash or Longleaf Pine and Magnolia.

Tree removal on lots less than one acre with an existing home do not require a tree removal permit, as long as the tree does not lie within a conservation area or buffer or is a specimen tree.

Residential lots that fall under the Ponte Vedra Zoning area (Ordinance 20-38) require a tree removal permit to remove any protected trees.

Does the County have rules pertaining to irrigation?

The County has rules designed to ensure the efficient use of water for use in landscaping irrigation. All new development projects shall follow Florida-Friendly landscaping principles at least half of planted species are to be native to the area and designate at least half of their landscape irrigated area to be watered with low volume irrigation. Low volume irrigation limits the delivery of water to the root zone and consists of micro, bubbler, drip, trickle and soaker systems. For more information, please reference Article VI of the Land Development Code. Requirements are for Commercial and New Residential Common Areas only and a building permit may be required for all irrigation systems.


Wetlands and Upland Buffers

How do I know if my property has any wetland areas?

Wetlands are areas inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soils. Identification of the extent of any wetland areas can be done by reviewing the recorded subdivision plat. If the wetland is not depicted on the plat, an environmental professional will need to be hired to delineate any potential wetland areas.

What do I do if wetland areas exist on my property and I want to clear it, place fill on it or build?

Wetland areas are protected by law and must remain in their natural condition. If you propose to dredge, fill, or cut any vegetation within a wetland for activities on property in the County, then wetland regulating agencies must be contacted first for permitting requirements and then the County must be contacted for other applicable preservation requirements.

What is the difference between flood zones and wetlands?

Flood zones are geographic areas that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has defined according to varying levels of flood risk. Wetlands are those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface water or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soils.

What is an upland buffer and when is it required?

An upland buffer is a strip of land along the edge of wetland areas to remain undisturbed with all existing vegetation. Different sized upland buffers are required depending on the type of development project, type of wetland, or location. Generally, a 50-foot upland buffer is required landward of the state jurisdictional wetland line for all tidally-influenced water bodies up to the point where a Mean High Water Line can be set and a 25-foot upland buffer with an additional 25-foot building setback from the buffer is required from all other contiguous wetland areas. Isolated wetland areas, or closed depressions surrounded by uplands, do not require a County upland buffer.

Additional Wetlands Information

Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP)

St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD)

US Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE)

US Environmental Protection Agency

Protected Habitats / Species

Are There Special Habitats Protected by the County?

There are six different imperiled or rare natural community habitats protected by the County. If these particular imperiled habitats are present on a particular parcel of land, a percentage of these habitat areas are required to be preserved in the development planning process.

Significant Natural Community Habitats

Sandhill and Scrub habitats occur on well-drained sandy ridges and rolling hills throughout the mainland portion of the County. These “Significant Natural Community Habitats” were at one time widespread, but most have been degraded or fragmented by timbering, overgrazing, plowing, or fire exclusion and have been converted to pastures, pine plantations, or residential and commercial developments.

The other four rare and imperiled habitats are found in sporadic areas along the coastline and include Maritime Hammock, Beach Dune, Coastal Grassland and Coastal Strand Communities.

For more information on these types of habitats, access the Florida Natural Areas Inventory.

Are There Specific Animals That Are Protected by the County?

All lands scheduled for development are reviewed for state and federal listed species prior to approval of the development.  Any listed species found on a particular parcel of land are protected in the County by applying the state and federal protection measures.  As well, bald eagles and marine turtles have specific protections in the Land Development Code.

Bald Eagle Protections – 4.01.10
Bald eagles have special exclusion zones for human activities out to 1500 feet from the nest location. The County monitors nesting activities for roughly 40 known nests located mainly along the St. Johns River and Intracoastal Waterway. Bald Eagle Nesting Season runs from October 1st- May 15th each year. Bald Eagle Nest Map

Marine Turtle Lighting – 4.01.09
In conjunction with lighting restrictions required by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, there are also special exterior lighting requirements required by the County for marine turtles. These restrictions apply to existing and proposed developments affecting ambient lighting conditions on the beach.

Are There Any Protected Plants and Animals I Should Know About?

A list of plants and animals with special protections are defined by law and the appropriate state or federal agency with jurisdiction. In most instances, the County requires an environmental survey for the presence of protected species in the review of proposed land development activities.

  • Report Wildlife or Boating Law Violations
    888-404-FWCC (3922)

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Development Resources