Planning and Zoning Agency recommends approval of Nocatee plans


The St. Johns County Planning and Zoning Agency voted last week to recommend approval of a number of technical modifications to Nocatee’s comprehensive plan and PUD – changes the master developer says will give them the flexibility they need to respond to changing market conditions.

PZA board members David Rice, Jon Woodard and Dick Williams voted to recommend approval of all of the developer’s requested modifications, while Archie Wainwright voted against the major modification portion of the plan. Board member Mike Koppenhafer voted against all of the proposed changes. The County Commission is scheduled to consider the agency’s recommendation at its May 17 meeting.

While the developer’s proposal requested modifications to a number of technical standards -- including decreasing the specified percentage of multi-family housing and office space in Nocatee Town Center – it was the proposed changes to the plan’s affordable housing component that drew the most questions and comments from board members. Under the initial plan, the PARC Group was to donate 50 acres of land and $800,000 over time to the county for use in developing affordable housing. Noting that The PARC Group had donated an initial 10 acres and $150,000 several years ago but the county had failed to develop the property, the developers offered a new proposal.

Instead of donating the remaining 40 acres, the developers propose, the PARC Group would donate 20 acres of more valuable land on Nocatee Parkway for use in developing a postsecondary institution that would provide jobs and educational opportunities to the county. The PARC Group would also make immediate payment of the remaining $650,000 instead of spreading payments over time as originally planned. Should the college not be developed as planned, the land would revert to The PARC Group in exchange for a payment to the county of $1.64 million.

Several PZA board members expressed concern over the change, saying they feared service workers and public servants would not be able to afford to live in Nocatee.

“We’re investing millions in new schools, and I think teachers ought to have an opportunity to live in the communities where they work,” Board Member Dick Williams said.

Four St. Augustine residents also expressed opposition to the affordable housing change at the meeting, including representatives from Habitat for Humanity and Home Again St. Johns.

PARC Group Chief Operating Officer Greg Barbour noted, however, that a study confirmed that more than 1,000 of the 5,000 homes already built in Nocatee met the local standards for affordable housing, and that the community featured a variety of home styles including townhomes and condos.

PZA staff also expressed their support for the proposed change, as did Benjamin Coney of the county’s Housing and Community Services. Noting that developing an affordable housing project can often take many years, Coney said The PARC Group’s proposal would provide the funds needed to make an immediate impact on some of the county’s most pressing affordable housing issues, including renovating substandard housing and supporting the homeless.

“It will help the county address those immediate housing needs and better plan, fund and develop affordable housing,” Coney said.

After hearing from the developers and agency staff, board member David Price expressed support for the proposal, adding that affordable housing was a county-wide issue not specific to Nocatee.

“I think it’s unfair to try to place on one particular applicant the responsibility for solving all our affordable housing issues,” Price said.

Other aspects of The PARC Group’s proposed modifications that received the agency’s recommendation for approval include allowing temporary above-ground utilities while developing some new neighborhoods; clarifying standards for paving Pine Island Rd. to the south of Nocatee, and revising the development order to give the St. Johns County School District more flexibility in siting new schools.

The plan modifications also would expand a current standard that allows Nocatee to count area retail and office space toward project requirements from one mile to three miles. That change, Barbour said, reflects how the surrounding landscape has changed since Nocatee was first envisioned in the late 1990s.

“Fifteen years ago, we created standards when the only development in this part of the county was Julington Creek and there was no regional road system,” Barbour said. “Since then, the whole world has changed.”

The construction of Nocatee Parkway, 9B, new I-95 interchanges – and the recent approval of the Twin Creeks and Durbin Creek National developments that are expected to have 5 million square feet of office and retail space with major highway access – have created a new landscape, Barbour said.

“Common sense tells us that’s where the big-box retailers and multi-family housing are going to go,” he said.

Expanding the standard from 1 mile to 3 miles, Barbour said, will afford the developers some flexibility and allow them to focus on attracting the type of retail and office presence that will provide services to Nocatee residents.


Decrease the required percentage of multi-family units

Expand the test area to meet specific use standards for retail and office from 1 mile outside Nocatee to 3 miles outside NocateeRevise development order so that schools are not required to be built in a village center in order to give the school district more flexibility in siting schools

Revise affordable housing requirements in exchange for land donation for post-secondary university

Clarify design standards regarding road connection to Pine Island Rd.

Allow temporary above-ground utilities in some development areas