St. Johns Commission Gets Heated over Leadership; Meanwhile, Members OK Professional Office Complex on Solana Road

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Byline: SHAKAYA ANDRES

In a quick, emotionless and unanimous vote, St. Johns County commissioners agreed this week to allow a zoning change for a professional office complex in Ponte Vedra Beach.

Then, in a split decision, they voted after a lengthy and near-tearful discussion not to unseat Cyndi Stevenson as chairwoman.

On the office complex issue, the commissioners voted 5-0 Tuesday to rezone 4.38 acres of residential space on the north side of Solana Road, near Belvedere Place, to commercial. The project, expected to take five years to build, is called Ponte Vedra Station.

The planned 20,000 square feet of office space will be a two-story building in the center with two single-story structures on either side. The commission had voted in 2006 to approve the site for 12 multi-family residential units.

Last month, the Ponte Vedra Architectural Review Committee recommended that developers decrease the size of the single-story building near Belvedere Place, add landscaping and a wall near Belvedere Place to protect residents and design a ground-based sign at Solana Road.

Karen Taylor, a development expert who spoke on behalf of the landowner, said the developers have taken residents' and county boards' concerns into account. She said residents can be assured the property will be used as it's intended.

"This is for office and professional use only; there is no retail," she said.

The county Planning and Zoning Agency voted 4-3 in January to recommend that the commission approve the project. Board members were concerned about the compatibility and closeness of the western-most building to nearby single-family homes and the location of the trash bins on the property, as well as noise, trash, an increase in traffic on Solana Road and the fact that residents could see the parking lot from Belvedere Place.

Stevenson said letters sent by opposing residents to her and the Planning and Zoning Agency could have caused the agency board members' division on the vote. …