Despite public opposition, the St. Johns County Planning and Zoning Agency (PZA) board unanimously recommended approval of plans at a meeting on Nov. 3 to rezone 36 acres in Palm Valley for the development of a new 26-unit, single family home subdivision.
The project now moves on to the Board of County Commissioners, which is scheduled to consider the matter at its Dec. 20 meeting.Known as Oak Trail Preserve, the project’s proposed development is located along the east side of North Roscoe Boulevard, just north of its intersection with Canal Boulevard. Jacksonville-based real estate land use law firm Driver, McAfee, Peek & Hawthorne (DMP&H) represents the developer.
“We have pledged all along that we will meet the character, value and aesthetics of the Palm Valley Community Association and what they’ve anointed as far as quality developments,” said Brad Wester, vice president of land use planning for DMP&H, at the PZA meeting held at the St. Johns County Administrative Complex in St. Augustine. “It’s not going to be this eye sore of wide-open, clear-cut land with roof tops.”
Concerned Palm Valley residents disagreed and said the development will negatively impact their quality of life.
“We’re going to have traffic like TPC week seven days a week,” said Steve Williams, who lives on North Roscoe Road. “I have yet to talk with any of my neighbors that agree with doing this.”
Residents also said the development will increase school capacity, water drainage and pollution as well as disrupt the wetlands and wildlife that characterize the property.
“We need to stop this right now,” said Toby Sowerby, who also lives on North Roscoe Boulevard. “I hope you all listen to some reason and take a step back here and at least deny this for the good of the community.”
Wester responded to each of the public concerns.
He said the roadways will still operate at just over 50 percent of their total capacity, and both the elementary and middle schools in the area have available capacity. There will be a 2.8 student deficiency at the high school level, but he said his team has applied for school concurrency, and a plan is in place to fund the school system to mitigate for the projected deficiency.
In terms of environmental conservation, Wester said his client will preserve 50 percent of the land – including both wetlands and uplands – and capture, convey and treat water drainage as required by county and regulatory agency guidelines. He said their development team is also working with the Ponte Vedra Greenway Alliance to protect and define the trail system that is currently part of the property.
“Palm Valley is a beautiful place,” said Wester. “The residents are very passionate about maintaining that. That’s what we pledge and intend to do.”
St. Johns County staff members confirmed the accuracy of Wester’s rebuttals.
Although the PZA board expressed sympathy to the public concerns,members said the developers are entitled to certain property rights, and the project is well protected within those rights.
“What we can do is hold the developer to the highest standards,” said Dick Williams, PZA board member. “I think Mr. Wester and his group will take into account the feel of Palm Valley because he lives in the area and is very instrumental in overseeing the developments.”
Jeffrey Martin, chair member of the PZA board, echoed those sentiments.
“The applicant has done everything they’re required to do,” said Martin. “They’re not asking for anything extra, and they’re improving some of the property. There’s no reason to deny this.”