Although the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club’s request for its 30-year proposed renovation project to be rezoned as a planned unit development has been denied by two boards in one week’s time, it does not mean that the project is one that even the members of those boards does not think could have a positive impact in the community.
In many ways, the boards have done their job to create further discussion and attempt to fill in the gaps or iron out the confusion that may surround the project as a whole.
The Ponte Vedra/Palm Valley Architectural Review Committee did not approve everything that the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club asked for as part of its proposed 30-year development and renovations plan during its meeting on Sept. 6.
The committee did not approve the proposed planned unit development, but instead chose to opt out of a vote based on the information that was provided. They did approve the architectural style, which includes the design, colors and materials presented as part of the plan.
Although the committee’s decision is not the final one that decides whether the PUD is approved or not, their recommendation will be able to be weighed by the St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners during their decision process.
The Commission’s ruling will dictate the fate of the project requests.
Six days later, the Ponte Vedra Zoning & Adjustment Board met on Sept. 11 and dissected each of the 31 waivers being asked for as part of the PUD plan request during a marathon meeting that lasted 12 hours.
After the lengthy discussion, the PVZAB denied the PUD request with a vote of 4-3, with Anthony Peduto, Jane Rollinson, Megan McKinley and Richard Ensslen voting against the PUD and Chip Greene, Samuel Crozier and John Patton voting in favor of it.
Despite voting against it in the end, Rollinson was pleased with the Inn & Club’s willingness to discuss it in depth and attempt to sort out the questions and concerns the board had.
“The Board of County Commissioners needs to resolve these things in question and negotiate over the waivers before any action is taken,” Rollinson said.
The PUD factors in two separate properties, with both the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club and The Lodge & Club part of the redevelopment plan.
The Inn & Club stated several reasons why redevelopment of the properties is needed, including repeated storm damage and to enhance the experience for its members while updating the facilities to keep pace with its business competition.
Ellen Avery-Smith, an attorney with Rogers Towers and representing the project, clarified that on the golf course there will be no improvements such as outdoor dining or rooftop bars.
There have been several changes made to the initial PUD proposal, and many of them were due to feedback expressed by residents of the area and after talks the Inn & Club had with them.
“Everything in the building height has to be from the finished floor to the top of the building,” Avery-Smith said. “There’s no additional 10 feet for mechanical equipment or roof. The building height shall be measured in feet and not stories.”
The current proposal states that any new buildings will have at least 20 feet of separation between them, while buildings that are currently in place will remain the same in terms of their proximity.
Buildings that will see no change to their current length include the spa, Atlantic house, the historic inn, conference center, Ocean house and Peyton house, while the surf club will increase from 349 feet to 365 feet and the sports club will be a proposed length of 416 feet.
As a result, there will be an estimated 497,990 square feet added between the two properties at the end of the project.
Some comparative buildings heights that have been approved in the past around town used by the Inn & Club to state their case is Vicar’s Landing at Oakbridge with an approved height of 70 feet, the Sawgrass Mariott hotel at 70 feet and Sawgrass Country Club at 60 feet.
However, the difference in those instances is that they do not share the same proximity to the ocean front that the Inn & Club property does.
Opposition to the matter includes Doug Burnett, an attorney with St. Johns Law Group, who questioned the number of waivers the group is asking for, which is currently in the double digits.
According to Avery-Smith, some of the reasons for the waiver requests include that many of the existing building conditions predate the establishment of the Ponte Vedra overlay regulations and therefore they are seeking waivers that replicate what is already there, as well as the fact that they do not believe the Ponte Vedra code is designed to accommodate mixed-use development, which means adjustments to it would need to be made.
Attorney James Whitehouse has spoken about the project on behalf of the 47 residents that live at the Carlyle Condominium, which is surrounded by the Inn & Club and the properties in question.
He stated the Carlye’s concern that the new 55-foot proposed parking garage would create an eyesore for residents to look at and block their current views they have.
“One of the sticking points that we couldn’t agree on was the building heights they are requesting,” Rollinson said. “Also, the Palmer House sits right next to residential property.”
Many residents that spoke during the public comment sections of the meetings stated how vague the proposal is and how they believe it should have more specifics associated with it.
Several also said that the designs and renderings look top-notch, and they are not against redevelopment, but they just ask that it be done within the regulations in place and without the need for such a long list of waivers.
According to Rollinson, the PVZAB was able to work with those overseeing the proposed project and were able to approve 29 of the 31 waivers, 16 approved as is, 12 approved as amended and one approved after clarification. The two that were denied were both pertained to building heights.
“This is big for our community, but it’s also our job to represent what’s best for everyone and not everyone in Ponte Vedra are members of the Inn & Club or The Lodge,” Rollinson said.
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