Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Green Cove's Eyes Are Wide Open; Community Urged to Help Mold New Era

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Green Cove's Eyes Are Wide Open; Community Urged to Help Mold New Era

Article excerpt

Byline: Beth Reese Cravey, County Line staff writer

Green Cove Springs is on the brink of a new era.

And the City Council wants wide-ranging community input, from residents, businesses, government officials and developers alike, on what that era should look like.

With several major development projects on the horizon, changes afoot with some primary downtown properties and even more growth likely, the council has begun what may be a long-term process to establish a "vision" for the city's future.

"We're ready," said Matthew Tinney Jr. at a workshop Nov. 16 with members of two St. Johns County groups that have already been down the same road.

The council plans to borrow some strategies and planning tools from St. Johns Vision Inc. and Vilano Beach Main Street Partnership Group, non-profit organizations that helped St. Johns County and Vilano Beach set road maps for their future.

The so-called visioning process involves extensive public input, in small-group and town hall meetings, to decide what issues should be addressed on a communitywide basis. Those issues can range from preferred land uses for certain areas, city budget priorities, infrastructure needs and law enforcement to whether an architectural review board is warranted, how economic development should be pursued and whether children have enough activities to keep them busy.

The process is designed "for business, community organizations . . . to come together in a neutral forum in a consensus-building manner," said Barbara Spaulding, executive director of St. Johns Vision. "You set goals and objectives, how you're going to measure successes."

A key part of the process is having an implementation plan, so the community effort is not wasted.

"With previous vision documents, it was, 'Oh, isn't this nice?' and they were put on the shelf and were still there after 10 years," said Sacha Martin, a founding member of the St. Johns and Vilano Beach groups. "From the beginning, it's important to start thinking about the implementation process."

The bottom-line question, she said, is, "What do you want the community to look like?"

"The goal is to increase quality of life and [decide whether you want a city] full of chartreuse buildings with Mickey Mouse on the side. To know what you want in terms of buildings, parks," Martin said. "Green Cove Springs is historic, it's on the water. It has a unique sense of place."

That sense of place was what Vilano Beach was seeking to establish -- and maintain.

"We wanted to be able to look at a postcard and know it was Vilano Beach," she said.

Martin said the Vilano Beach group used an earlier Ponte Vedra Beach vision plan as its starting-off point and urged Green Cove Springs to do the same with St. Johns' efforts.

"We didn't have to start from scratch," she said, adding that her group went over the Ponte Vedra plan, saying, " 'We liked this, we didn't like that, this is us, this isn't us. …

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