Ponte Vedra Beach residents encouraged to get informed, engaged in local development proposals


At a meeting of the Ponte Vedra Beaches Coalition Wednesday, Dec. 6, Ponte Vedra Beach residents were encouraged to be more civically engaged regarding proposed development projects in the area.

“You’re really unique here in Ponte Vedra, and I think it behooves all of you to get really familiar with the codes that govern you specifically, because they aren’t the same rules that the rest of the county has to play by,” said Jane West, managing partner of Jane West Law and chair of the City of St. Augustine Beach Planning and Zoning Board. “Getting to know those district regulations is really important for, in my opinion, everyone who lives here in Ponte Vedra—especially since the growth is so exponential these days.”

With a long list of development proposals currently in the works for the Ponte Vedra Beach area, West and St. Johns County Director of Growth Management Suzanne Konchan were invited to give presentations regarding the ways in which residents could become more involved in the approval process. According to Konchan, one easy way to stay informed is by making use of the resources provided on the St. Johns County website.

“There’s a ton of information on there, and I want to encourage everyone to go visit it,” Konchan said, singling out the website’s “Development Tracker” – an interactive map that details all the current development projects throughout the county – as a particularly helpful tool.

For those considering legal action, West emphasized that it is important to consider the ramifications, including legal fees and possible countersuits. She also advised that those who wish to challenge a specific development must be prepared to demonstrate a significant personal interest in the matter.

“If you challenge a local government’s development order on the basis that it is inconsistent, you’ve got to have the standing, which means you have to allege an interest that exceeds the degree of just the general interest,” she explained, stating that a person who lives directly adjacent to a proposed development – or one who regularly participates in activities near that development – would have a good case for standing.

As for increasing civic engagement, West proposed holding public meetings in which residents can speak one-on-one with developers as a good method not only for raising public awareness, but also for conflict resolution.

“If you know of a development, I would encourage you to ask the developer to come to meetings like this and educate you,” she said. “It shows a level of transparency, and we don’t always have the luxury for [discussion] in public hearings, because those are governed by a different set of rules.”

West closed with a call to action, stating, “It’s not easy engaging, but I really hope you do. I think it’s our duty as citizens to make sure that we do for future generations.”