Photo of Jeff Wright

Jeff Wright is Board Certified in City, County & Local Government law, a designation by the Florida Supreme Court that recognizes special knowledge, skills, and proficiency in this area. He represents private property owners, associations, and investors in addressing land use and permitting concerns, particularly as they impact private property rights, property value, and investment decision-making. Jeff also specializes in working through the often complex challenges presented by local government regulation of land use. His expertise includes Florida’s Sunshine Law and Public Records Law, and all matters involving city, county, and local governments, including towns, villages, special districts, and community development districts.

Jeff has been deeply involved in growth management and comprehensive planning issues throughout Florida. He has served as committee counsel to the Collier County Rural Lands Stewardship Area Review Committee, and as an Assistant County Attorney on growth management matters. Jeff was a member of the Florida Association of County Attorneys’ statewide Growth Management Committee from its inception in 2009, and has provided critical input on growth management legislation, referenda, and reform.

Jeff has been recognized for his professional achievements, including receiving the Growth Management Committee Writing Award from the Florida Association of Counties (2009), the Deepwater Horizon Legal Task Force Appreciation Award (2011) and the Faculty of Federal Advocates’ Raymond Micklewright Professionalism Award (2004).

Last week on Wednesday, November 15th, the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce hosted a panel of local business and government leaders, to discuss “After Irma: The Outlook for Small Business in Collier County.” Panelists included Michael Wynn, President of Sunshine ACE Hardware; Blake Gable, CEO of Barron Collier Companies; Jody Hudgins, Senior Vice President at First Florida Integrity Bank; Leo Ochs, Collier County Manager; and Marshall Goodman, President and CEO of Naples Accelerator.

Themes

After an introduction by Bill Barker, President of the Naples Daily News, the panelists discussed the status of business in Collier County following Hurricane Irma which focused on three themes:

  • County’s storm response: All panelists expressed gratitude to Mr. Ochs for the great work of the County staff and the County’ exemplary storm preparation and response.
  • Environment for small business: Both before and after the storm, Collier County has been investing in citizen-accessible “economic incubators” and other methods to accelerate the success of small business.
  • Optimistic outlook: After the biggest storm to hit the Naples area in over 50 years, the small business community is poised to continue the pre-storm momentum and economic recovery.

Lessons from the Panelists

Michael Wynn. Odds are stacked against small businesses and challenges are constantly evolving. Despite the hurricane and despite the “Amazon effect” and trend toward consolidation, Mr. Wynn made it clear that retail is not dead. He stressed the importance of social media during a major storm and for general knowledge of a customer base. Small businesses may not be able to compete with Amazon’s product selection, but they can deliver products and use data to hone in on their customer base and product preferences.

Blake Gable. Mr. Gable explained that Hurricane Irma hit small retail businesses particularly hard and recovery will be an ongoing challenge. One month of lost business can devastate a “Mom and Pop” business. Both commercial and residential real estate markets are making a steady comeback. While Irma hit all sectors in September, signs point to a recovery to healthy pre-storm levels for both commercial and residential real estate.

Jody Hudgins. Mr. Hudgins stressed the importance of having a good relationship with your banker. He also urged that, in times of trouble, standby letters of credit are very important to have (particularly for unexpected surges in overtime expenses and supplies). Mr. Hudgins also indicated that disaster recovery loans have been an important part of the post-storm lending environment.

Leo Ochs. Mr. Ochs received accolades from fellow panelists on the County’s storm preparation and response. He indicated that the County is undergoing an “after action review” of the storm. Mr. Ochs also mentioned that the Board of County Commissioners may be considering policies such as a requirement for actual generators at gas stations and the need for backup generators at County utility stations.

Marshall Goodman. Mr. Goodman has a background in Silicon Valley and uses his background to help small businesses get up and running. He shared stories about the unique businesses that have come through his accelator program and the combination of retirees and opportunities that make Collier County unique.

The Future Looks Bright

Many small businesses are still reeling from the unexpected costs and lost revenue associated with the storm. Despite being directly hit by the most powerful hurricane to hit the area in over fifty years, Collier County is quickly recovering from the storm. The general mood among the panel was optimistic. Lessons learned from Irma will hopefully make the small business community even stronger than before the storm.

 

Photo Courtesy of Gail Lamarche

Last week, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida hosted Cornell University Professor Dr. Tony Ingraffea, as part of its “Evenings with the Conservancy” series who spoke on the “Effects of Unconventional Drilling” on November 8.

Oil & Gas in Southwest Florida

The evening began with an introductory presentation by Nicole Johnson, Director of Environmental Policy at the Conservancy, including a brief history of the oil and gas (mainly oil) industry in Southwest Florida. Oil wells have existed in Southwest Florida since the 1940s, but the industry has not thrived here like it has in other areas, such as the western United States.

The Collier Controversy

The Conservancy played a prominent role in recent controversies involving “alternate extraction” techniques in Collier County in 2013 and 2015. These controversies arose from use of fracking and unconventional extraction techniques at the Hogan Well in eastern Collier County, and resulted in increased public awareness of potential environmental concerns relating to fracking. The Conservancy has identified banning alternate extraction techniques as their #1 priority during the 2018 legislative session.

2018 Bills: H.B. 237/S.B. 462

The Conservancy is encouraging support of Florida H.B. 237, and its companion S.B. 462. If enacted in their present form, all forms of “advanced well stimulation treatment” (including fracking) would be prohibited in Florida.

On November 9th, S.B. 834 was introduced, and would impose penalties of $50,000 per incident on anyone who approves or engages in “extreme well stimulation” (including fracking).

Presentation by Dr. Tony Ingraffea

Dr. Ingraffea is an accomplished scientist who has studied and written about the subject for many years. He presented statistics on Florida’s historical oil and gas production relative to other states; use of solar power in the Sunshine State; and information about methane and CO2 (greenhouse gas) releases from oil and gas operations. Dr. Ingraffea also provided information on countries, states, provinces, and cities and counties that have banned fracking, including:

  • In Florida, 40 counties (of 67) and 52 cities have either banned fracking outright, or have passed resolutions opposing it. Collier County has not taken any formal action.
  • Florida’s oil production peaked in 1978, when production reached 4 million barrels/month.
  • Today there are around 60 producing oil and gas wells in Florida, and they produce around 150,000 barrels/month.
  • Every day, the United States consumes around 20 million barrels/day.

Dr. Ingraffea alluded to the United States’ plan to withdraw from the Paris Agreement in his discussion of greenhouse gas emissions, and provided some alarming statistics and projections.

Dr. Ingraffea concluded with a picture of Southwest Florida completely submerged, and he cautioned that Southwest Florida could be under water by 2022 (in five years), if the greenhouse gases and methane from oil and gas production remain on their present course. Amid gasps (and some giggles) from the crowd, he emphasized “these are only projections.”

Takings/Bert Harris Act

The arguments for conservation are compelling and sincere. However, regulation of resources involves striking a balance among competing interest holders. Because of this, in banning extraction techniques, the legislature would be wise to consider potential impacts to mineral rights holders. Failure to do so could lead to takings and Bert Harris Act lawsuits, and the possibility of indeterminable, potentially enormous, liability exposure for state and local governments in Florida.

If you have any questions regarding fracking or land use in Southwest Florida, please feel free to contact me at jeff.wright@henlaw.com or by phone at 239-344-1371.