Greed is bad.
Some background. The development sought and received planned unit development zoning back in 2002. It was a controversial development then more than now. Bu this wasn’t because of what it was to become. It was about what it would replace in the rush of development — the old Ponce De Leon Golf Resort and Conference Center.
Folks toss around the word “iconic” a little too much, but “The Ponce” was a true part of the city. Built in 1916, the Donald Ross-designed course was more than a place to hit balls. The restaurant and conference rooms were used by nearly every club and service organization in town for weekly luncheons at one time or another.
At the time there was an effort afoot, led by then-Mayor George Gardner, to buy the property for public use when the club’s owner, Chester Stokes, announced he was pulling the plug on the course. That never materialized, and it went into private hands.
So the city didn’t get the property, but it did get something. It stretched its boundaries considerably north, annexing the 1,000-plus acres fronting the Intracoastal Waterway and U.S. 1. That was during the “water wars” era between the county and city.
This was and is significant for the city. If you think about the boundaries prior to annexation, where would you find a dozen vacant building sites within city limits today?
The fact that the economy is turning and, apparently, construction is about to begin on the property, makes this a potential windfall for new water connections and property taxes for St. Augustine — one likely never to be matched again in sheer scope.
PZB member Jerry Dixon voted to allow the extension but included a word of caution, more for the newer board members than for the developers. Dixon was on the PZB when the original PUD was granted. Included in the document is a clause, if you will, that it is the developer’s obligation to inform all prospective buyers — as if they couldn’t see, or hear — that there was an airport abutting the northern end of the property and that things could likely get a little noisy. There were also substantial buffer zone requirements on that end of the property penned into the PUD.
You’d think that buyers would understand that moving next to an airport has its challenges. But more than one major manufacturer (and employer) south of town built noisy businesses pretty much in the middle of nowhere at the time, but still caught flack from neighborhoods subsequently built within the shadow of the manufacturing plants. Someone might have made a little mad money back then printing “We Didn’t Know” bumper stickers for the offended newcomers.
The “buyer beware” language was an interesting caveat to the original PUD, and one we’re glad Dixon brought up once again: so that Madeira knows upfront that the Northrop Grumman/airport property is a major employer and has been an excellent neighbor to the city and county over many years.
When new neighbors move in and get a little proximity shock, they can’t say they were not warned.
But they will.