Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Sentiment Grows in St. Johns for Neighborhood Bill of Rights; Plan Modeled after Duval County Will Be Presented to Commission on Tuesday

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Sentiment Grows in St. Johns for Neighborhood Bill of Rights; Plan Modeled after Duval County Will Be Presented to Commission on Tuesday

Article excerpt

Byline: terry brown

Imagine a meeting that brings a developer and residents together to exchange ideas and concerns for an equal amount of time before a planned project being submitted for county approval -- all while county commissioners listen to both sides of the issue but are unable to speak.

Nirvana? It already happens just over the county line to the north, and a move is under way to bring the same to St. Johns County.

The Jacksonville Neighborhood Bill of Rights was developed to provide Duval County residents an equal voice and legal standing on growth issues. The issue of being heard is what is drawing a growing number of residents in St. Johns County to demand the same, and they are using their neighbors to the north to provide the template.

Jerry Cameron, aide to St. Johns County Commissioner Ben Rich, is spearheading the drive to have the document adapted. He said the response in the community has been outstanding.

"We are faced with unprecedented growth that has impacted community after community across the county," Cameron said. "Many in the county currently have the perception that government is out of touch with the concerns and the desires of the community, and a neighborhood bill of rights would be an essential component of getting neighborhood and community issues heard."

Cameron presented the bill of rights plan to the St. Johns County Roundtable on Monday, and will submit the plan to commissioners at their meeting Tuesday.

The issue of a bill of rights is just what is needed, according to Phyllis Abbatiello, president of the Northwest Community Coalition.

"The coalition supports this 100 percent," Abbatiello said. "Right now, if we want to express our views before the County Commission we're allowed three minutes. A neighborhood bill of rights would allow us equal time and equal standing with developers at a meeting in which [the commissioners] could only listen. This is absolutely what we need."

The Jacksonville plan was adopted in 1995 and has provided the framework for many of the current systems in the city, said Misty Skipper, a spokeswoman for Mayor John Peyton. …

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