St. Johns County Commission rejects Preserve at Wards Creek housing project

Traffic impact cited in decision


On Tuesday, May 7, the St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners unanimously voted down a proposed rezoning and a change to the county’s future land use map that would have paved the way for a 288-unit affordable housing complex off County Road 16A.

The changes had been sought by developer Dominium for Preserve at Wards Creek, an apartment community on 19.22 acres to the east of the Wards Creek Planned Unit Development.

Members of the public spoke both for and against the project during the board’s regular meeting. The most frequently mentioned objection involved a potential impact on local traffic, which is already very heavy. It was the same criticism levied by attendees at a public meeting in November.

Dominium’s plan to add more through lanes to State Road 16 and Silverleaf Parkway, a left-turn lane on State Road 16 and a receiving lane failed to convince the speakers or the board. Commissioner Krista Joseph expressed concern over the additional lanes tapering once again to two and asked where all the traffic would go.

Commissioner Henry Dean agreed with Joseph’s concern.

“We have been begging, we’ve been pleading, we’ve been fighting to get that four-lane — I have for the last seven years that I’ve been on the commission,” Dean said. “So even though this is a good project; it’s been presented well; I’d love to approve more affordable housing, but I’m not going to sit here today and approve more traffic congestion on 16 when it’s still two lanes and it takes an hour and a half to get from 16 and 95 up to IGP. I mean it’s crazy.”

Commissioner Sarah Arnold said she was a big supporter of affordable housing but that she took issue with the location of the project, also citing the traffic issue.

Preserve at Wards Creek would have offered two-, three- and four-bedroom units contained in three-story structures. All units would have been available for households making not more than 60% of the area median income. At today’s rates, that would mean rents ranging from about $1,069 to $1,362, depending on the number of bedrooms.

Had it been approved, the community would have begun accepting residents early in 2028.

In voting down the project, the board broke with a recommendation for approval made Feb. 1 by the county’s Planning and Zoning Agency.

The lack of affordable housing has become a hot topic in St. Johns County, where the median price for a single-family home is $546,259, according to the most recent figures.