We have an interesting situation here in Ponte Vedra, St. Johns County.
A man named Burr, a developer from Jacksonville, wants to bring in thousands of truck loads of dirt, to fill a wetland that drains into the Guana River and Estuary Reserve so he can build a road to place more homes on his property.
The county said you need a variance to do that.
Mr. Burr got his variance, but it was challenged. When the legal merits of the challenge turned out to be pretty valid, he got nervous and decided that instead of playing by the rules, he would reinterpret them so they wouldn’t apply at all. So he hired an engineering firm — England, Timms and Miller (the same consultants on the Kings Grant case). Ten months after the county told Mr. Burr he needed a variance, Miller came up with the creative opinion that Mr. Burr never needed a variance to begin with.
Now the fun: Do the County Attorney and the County Administrator support their own experts on the county staff, that we the public pay for, or do they overrule them in favor of this rich developer from Jacksonville?
You may ask where are the County Commissioners? Are they remaining neutral as they legally must, or are they helping their contributors in this election year?
Do these Commissioners tell the County Attorney and Administrator to stand by their excellent staff experts or do they cave? It would be so much easier to just do the right thing. But not nearly as exciting!
One can also ask: would this be happening if it were a St. Johns County developer? But alas the best one in the county turned down this piece of land as being too difficult and unsuitable to be bothered over.
Where is this piece of land? Why, on Ponte Vedra Blvd., of course — across from oceanfront homes on one side and guardians of the environment and the estuary on the other.
The stakes are high for Mr. Burr, but the stakes are higher for the citizens of St. Johns County. What precedent will this set if the developers can dictate what rules apply?
We all have to play by the same rules. Let’s see if the county feels that special people deserve otherwise.
Mary F. Kohnke
Ponte Vedra Beach