Friday, July 22, 2016

Say NO to Coastal Developer Sprawl

Capt. Lee Geanuleas, U.S.N. (Ret.) writes in St. Augustine Residents Count: "Article in Saint Augustine Record's Sunday's edition captures opposition to Future Land Use Change requested by the developer.":

Proposed resort in Vilano Beach faces opposition from area residents
Posted: July 16, 2016 - 11:07pm | Updated: July 17, 2016 - 7:46am

Residents of Vilano Beach, North Beach and South Ponte Vedra Beach are organizing opposition to a developer-initiated request that St. Johns County amend its Future Land Use Map and, thus, pave the way for conversion of an old, unused RV park into a private commercial resort.

The land in question is 43.87 acres located about 1.5 miles north of the Francis and Mary Usina Bridge on the west side of A1A/Coastal Highway, just south of Ocean Sands Beach Inn.

Some residents are saying approval of the Comprehensive Plan amendment requested by Watermarke/Beachcomber’s developers could set a dangerous precedent for major commercial development along the A1A residential corridor between the bridge and Ponte Vedra Beach.

Developers are looking to build a hotel and resort project at 3457 Coastal Highway that could include about 130 rooms, 70-plus beach villas, a conference center, bed and breakfast, restaurant, cafĂ©, bar, gift shop, beach club, office building, boathouse and cabana. Their application goes before the county’s Planning and Zoning Board Agency on Aug. 4. A hearing before the Board of County Commissioners is scheduled for Sept. 20.

Save Our Vilano, a committee of residents fighting the developer’s request, gathered at the Serenata Beach Club on Wednesday to discuss some particulars of the project and its potential impacts.

Bill Nesbitt, steering committee member of Save Our Vilano, said he thought the land could appropriately handle the residential use for which it’s already approved.

He and other residents said the number of people using a private resort of the proposed intensity and density far exceeds what would be allowed by the currently approved Planned Unit Development, or PUD, of 79 single-family residential units. They said not only is the land surrounded by protected marsh and wetlands, the proposed project is inconsistent with existing residential properties in the area.

Many residents echoed each other’s concerns on what effect the project could have on traffic, emergency services and the ability to evacuate the narrow barrier island in a timely manner — to say nothing of navigating the already congested intersection of May Street and San Marco Avenue.

When Nesbitt said a traffic study conducted on the developer’s behalf projected the resort would add 150 vehicles an hour to existing patterns on A1A/Coastal Highway, residents broke out in nervous laughter.

“They don’t get their mail by carrier pigeon, do they?” one resident asked rhetorically.

Other residents expressed concern whether approval for commercial use would allow the current property owner, or any future owner, to build hotels, bars, restaurants, gas stations, laundromats, movie theaters, retail stores, convention centers without further approvals from the county, even if Watermarke/Beachcomber does not materialize.

The current Future Land Use Map shows much of Vilano Beach, including the land in question, is designated appropriate for low-density residential, rather than commercial development.

In questioning the need for more commercial development in St. Johns County, Nesbitt pointed to the county’s financial support for projects like the Vilano Town Center and World Golf Village Convention Center, which he claimed are underutilized.

“Some of the county people say we need more of this stuff because we don’t have enough,” he said. “Well, for goodness’ sake, you’re not using what you’ve already paid for.”

Attorney Jane West, retained by Save Our Vilano, reminded residents the property can be developed with or without the requested changes.

“My client does not want to completely stop development on this property and even though it’s sandwiched between two pristine conservation areas, historically it was a mobile home park and a campground,” she said. “This is not about stopping development. However, it is about stopping irresponsible development that is incompatible with the surrounding land use.”

She questioned why the county would consider a private commercial project in close proximity to the Vilano Town Center, a publicly backed commercial project that she said has potential to be a “funky beach commercial hub,” but that has yet to come to fruition.

“It’s not there yet,” she said. “It’s not even close to being there.”

West also spoke to the merits of the county’s Comprehensive Plan, which took years to develop and finalize, and the dangers of making too many amendments and exceptions.

“When you deviate from that plan at the request of a private developer, it is not always necessarily in the public interest,” she said.

She said amendments come in many forms and that a PUD is essentially a contract between a developer and the county in which a development gets its own set of codes.

“We have well over 400 PUDs in St. Johns County right now,” West said. “It’s one thing to have all your code enforcement officers memorize the St. Johns County code — it’s a whole other thing to ask them to enforce 400 additional codes.”

Developer Steve Magiera, partner Ren Weiss and attorney Ellen Avery-Smith presented conceptual drawings and plans for the Watermarke/Beachcomber Resort at a Vilano Beach Main Street meeting in May.

Neither Vivian Browning, chair of Vilano Beach Main Street, nor Avery-Smith returned calls Friday for comment on the project.

sponger2 07/17/16 - 09:19 am 60And now were going to burn up some more of A1A.
Come on Commissioners, put a stop to this crap. No water, no roads, no infrastructure, but plenty of construction. Get your heads of of your azzes no say NO!

attinson63 07/17/16 - 01:59 pm 40More overdevelopment
Oh my no! Don't let this happen to beautiful Vilano Beach! I go there specifically for the lack of crowds. It's such a wonderful area that needs to stay that way. They haven't even come up with a plan for May/San Marco yet, why do they think they can plow this through? Fight fight fight this!

No comments: