Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Local developer plans 2 major projects, not 4

Local developer plans 2 major projects, not 4

Two tracts not planned for development

Publication Date: 02/07/09

Ponte Vedra Beach developer Wilson Green LLC will build two major housing developments in south St. Johns County, not four as one of the company's maps indicate.

Doug Davis of Wilson Green said Friday that he wanted to clearly state that the two tracts identified as DRI 3 and DRI 4 are not slated for development.

The acronym DRI stands for "development of regional impact" and refers to projects of more than 1,000 homes. Unlike smaller developments, DRIs require state approval because of their size and impact on not just their development but the region.

"We only have plans to develop a portion of our (20,000 acre) property," Davis said. "We have no plans any time in the future to develop those two sites. We're sophisticated enough to know that everyone benefits when the public has a chance for input."

County planning officials had said they'd seen the map in question but didn't know what was planned for those sites.

Representing the company, attorney George McClure of McClure, Bloodworth, St. Augustine, said he and Wilson Green officers met with county and environmentalists about the company's plans.

"We're happy to share information about what we own and happy to sit down and share where we are," McClure said. "We've tried to be very open."

Wilson Green is currently seeking local and state approvals for Old Kings Park, 6,150 acres following the west contour of I-95 for six miles, from S.R. 206 to C.R. 204. It would supply 1,800 new jobs, the company said.

At buildout, it will have 3,630 homes and millions of square feet of industrial space.

The company is also seeking approvals for 5,216-acre Old Brick Township in Flagler County, just south of the St. Johns County line. At buildout, that will have 5,000 homes, 100,000 square feet of retail, 50,000 square feet of office and 1 million square feet of industrial space.

Another development, named Watermark, is planned on 2,524 acres surrounding the I-95-S.R. 206 intersection. It will seek to build 6,000 homes and is not a Wilson Green project but belongs to Watermen Development Group of Coral Gables.

Davis said the map that began the confusion is a rough diagram of the entire Wilson Green property, which was purchased in 2007. Local environmentalists wanted this kind of map to see the location of the 8,000 acres the company promised to keep from development to preserve the headwaters of Pellicer Creek, he said.

"We have worked closely with the Florida Wildlife Federation, (St. Johns River) Water Management District, University of Central Florida, University of Florida and county planning to develop environmental strategies and ecologically beneficial areas for wildlife and the floodplain," Davis said. "We believe we have acted responsibly."

On Thursday, McClure had requested a zoning change for a relatively tiny 83-acre Wilson Green project named Southwest Commerce Park at State Road 206 and I-95. The project will wrap around a truck repair facility on the corner and provide 460,000 square feet of light industrial and 150 multi-family homes.

Vehicles will enter and exit from S.R. 206. The project's spine road that will eventually connect to Old Kings Park.

Crescent Beach resident Pat Hamilton, who has two daughters attending Pedro Menendez High School a mile or two from the Commerce Park site, said he was concerned about the heavy truck traffic that will come to the new facility.

"About 400 (high school) freshmen are out there every day, driving to school," Hamilton said. "Putting those new drivers on the same road with big trucks is a public safety issue."

But the zoning hearing never occurred. The PZA postponed it due to a legal technicality until 1:30 p.m. Feb. 19.

Ed Brunson, spokesman for Wilson Green, was asked why the company is moving to build this project during a recession.

"We see the need for jobs there now," Brunson said.

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