Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Lake Asbury 'Blueprint' in Spotlight; Some Residents Are Concerned That Proposals Might Wind Up Encouraging Growth

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Lake Asbury 'Blueprint' in Spotlight; Some Residents Are Concerned That Proposals Might Wind Up Encouraging Growth

Article excerpt

Byline: BETH REESE CRAVEY

On Tuesday, the Clay County Commssion will consider two comprehensive plan amendments, one that will guide future growth in the Lake Asbury area, another that will impact a stretch of Blanding Boulevard some already view as overdeveloped.

The commission is likely to approve both amendments in some form -- the Lake Asbury master plan has been in the works since 1998, a proposal to replace one Wal-Mart with another in the Ridgewood area since last year -- and both have undergone extensive study and revisions since their inception.

But commissioners also will vote on certain, controversial details in the two amendments, particularly in the Lake Asbury plan, which will be a blueprint for residential, commercial and office development in a 30,293-acre area. And residents have given them a variety of opinions, questioning density levels, environmental impacts and traffic patterns, among other things.

"This is a very detailed, large-scale plan," Commissoner Patrick McGovern said, "and the devil is in the details."

The master plan was designed with a dual purpose -- to preserve as much as possible of the rural character of Lake Asbury, while allowing new subdivisions, retail shopping centers and employment centers in targeted areas, county officials said.

But at a series of public hearings and meetings, residents have told commissioners that they fear the plan will actually encourage development, leading to traffic congestion and high-density neighborhoods.

While earlier versions of the master plan called for densities no greater than one residence per acre, the current version provides for subdivisions with three homes or more per acre, which some residents think is too high.

"I moved to Lake Asbury from Duval [county] a few years ago to escape the rat race. I didn't anticipate all this," said homeowner Ben Ingram, who said he has chickens and rabbits, among other animals, on his property. "We like the country atmosphere."

Homeowner Sid Newburg called the plan a "travesty of the planning department."

"This has been pushed down our throats. It was not approved by the residents," he said. "This is a community of rural individuals who moved out here for a reason . . . I represent a whole lot of people in Lake Asbury and we are all upset."

Whether residents want it or not, Lake Asbury will see increased development, with or without the master plan, said county Planning Director Thad Crowe.

"We do expect development to continue," he said.

But the plan will limit that development, reducing the current potential for 8,000 more residential units by 2015 to 5,000 units. The less residential development is allowed, he said, the less commercial development will follow.

However, Crowe said he was "not averse" to reducing some densities in some areas. …

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