The 41 voices speaking in opposition to the development of the Outpost fell on deaf ears at the Planning and Zoning Agency transmittal hearing held Aug. 15.
The agency voted 3-2 in favor of the Comprehensive Plan Amendment to change the Future Land Use map from conservation to residential, with PZA members Bill McCormick and Jeffrey Martin dissenting.
About 400 protesters showed up at Thursday’s meeting, exceeding the room’s maximum capacity. Many wore white shirts to show their solidarity against the development. Most spoke about traffic issues in the area, hurricane evacuation and environmental concerns which caused the day’s agenda to exceed an hour of comments, ending with the final vote at 8:30 p.m.
The proposed development at the Outpost is a 66-home community called Vista Tranquila, which is located at the end of Neck Road and is approximately 100 acres adjacent the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve.
Ellen Avery-Smith, an attorney representing The Ponte Vedra Corporation from Rogers Towers said they followed the agreement outlined in the recent settlement and was concerned they were being treated unfairly.
“We stand before you having done everything we said we would do,” Avery-Smith said. “We filed the residential A application, we agreed to revisions to the PUD which resolved all outstanding staff comments on the PUD and we dismissed the litigation. And yet, we find ourselves in a process that seems predisposed toward an irrational result.”
In a subsequent interview with Nicole Crosby, founder of Save Guana Now, Crosby stated that although the vote was against the favor of the organization, in her eyes it was still a victory.
“We really felt like it was a victory and I know that is a strange thing to say when you've lost the vote,” Crosby said. “I was sad to see people walking out of the room with the glum faces. (But) it was so important for people to understand the vote count on that particular day wasn't as important as the number of people that came… .We would have loved to have the recommendation of the PZA but we were not surprised, we truly did anticipate it was going to go in that direction because the leanings of PZA members from past history and some of them have very direct developer interest.”
Crosby said she expects the September 17 hearing with the Board of County Commissioners to host an even bigger turnout of opposition. While the PZA’s recent decision makes a recommendation to the Board, September’s hearing concludes the final transmittal hearing and, if passed, will go to state and then back to the County for final approval.