Housing Planned near Site

Article excerpt

ATLANTIC BEACH -- A proposed 220-unit housing development near

Atlantic Beach could destroy undiscovered archaeological sites,

according to government officials and an archaeologist.

The development is planned near the oldest known permanent

settlement in North America, located in an Atlantic Beach

resident's back yard.

Atlantic Beach Mayor Suzanne Shaughnessy is trying to point out

the importance of the site to the developer, Centex Homes, as

well as Jacksonville officials.

A public hearing on the development has been scheduled for Oct.

6 before the zoning committee of Jackhsonville City Council.

Centex officials were unavailable for comment yesterday, said

Larry Marscheck, public relations manager at Willman & Co.,

Centex's public relations firm.

However, archaeologist Mike Russo, who discovered the site in

1989, said an archaeologist retained by Centex Homes contacted

him in the past week about the proposed development.

"The point is not to stop Centex in its tracks," Shaughnessy

said. "The point is to not roll right over anything of value

that might be there."

And Russo said there probably are valuable discoveries to be

made. His most recent research has been funded by a grant from

the National Geographic Society.

"The potential for sites being there is high," Russo said.

In a Sept. 1 letter to Shaughnessy and the St. Johns River

Water Management District, Russo recommended that "any project

planned in the area include judicious consideration for the

unknown cultural resources it may impact."

Jacksonville City Councilman Max Leggett said he has some

concerns about the development, but the potential presence of

archaeological artifacts isn't one of them.

"I don't think that's a viable issue right now," Leggett said.

"It's too old."

The prehistoric site, about 180 feet by 150 feet, is located on

Pamela Spencer's 1.3-acre lot. The site was larger until a

housing development destroyed part of it, according to Russo. …