Last Wednesday, Sept. 5 marked three months since the St. Johns County Commissioners directed county staff to survey Ponte Vedra Beach property owners regarding the creation of a municipal service taxing unit (MSTU) for local beach renourishment, and according to Damon Douglas of the county’s Public Works Department, it also marked the day those surveys were officially mailed out.
“What the board has directed us to do is to make contact with the community and determine support for an initial, Phase 1 municipal service taxing unit to come up with the estimated $1.2 million that’s needed to fully develop a proposal and permit sand sources,” Douglas said at a meeting hosted by Save Ponte Vedra Beach Inc. on Sept. 5 at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall.
Advising that the duration of the MSTU would be split into two phases, Douglas explained that the first phase would fund the preliminary work to be done by Taylor Engineering, as well as an analysis to determine the appropriate assessment mechanism for Phase 2.
“The estimate is (0.6)* mills,” he said, “which is six-tenths of 1 percent, for a two-year assessment.”
Douglas also added that, at least for the first phase, only those with property along the beach would be included in the initial taxing unit.
“Basically, it’s all properties that are east of Ponte Vedra Boulevard,” he explained, “from the Duval County line down to where the Guana Park begins on the oceanfront.”
According to Douglas, those property owners will have until Oct. 5 to respond to the survey, and once those responses are received, the matter will go back before the Board of County Commissioners for their consideration. If approved, Douglas added that Phase 1 of the MSTU could potentially be completed by as soon as early 2020, with sand placement beginning later that year.
Present at the meeting to voice his support was Arthur “Buddy” Jacobs of the South Amelia Island Shore Stabilization Association, which manages the beach nourishment program — funded by a municipal service benefit unit — for the south end of Amelia Island.
“We’ve had two renourishments and we’re about to do a third in a year or so,” Jacobs said. “It’s been going on a long time, but it takes somebody to step out, and this is your opportunity to do that. We did it, and it was not without controversy. There were people concerned about lots of different things, and believe it or not, we had opposition here and there, but everybody got together at the end and got it done.”
Earlier this year, Save Ponte Vedra Beach conducted its own survey, to which roughly 91 percent of the more than 600 property owners surveyed responded favorably to the idea of creating an MSTU. Lori Moffett, president of Save Ponte Vedra Beach, said that securing yet another overwhelmingly supportive response would be vital to ensuring the long-term viability of the beach.
“We have to restore our beach, and this is the path that we have,” she said. “There is no Plan B.”
*Editor's Note: A previous version of this story included the original quote from Damon Douglas stating that the estimated assessment for a Ponte Vedra Beach MSTU would be 6 mills. The Recorder has since received confirmation that the correct estimate is 0.6 mills.