Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

BLACK HAMMOCK ISLAND; A Positive Deal

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

BLACK HAMMOCK ISLAND; A Positive Deal

Article excerpt

Both environmentalists and the developer won in a legal settlement ending a dispute over the construction of upscale homes on Black Hammock Island.

For the Fletcher Management Co. and the property owners, the settlement means a green light for 143 waterfront homes to be built upon 358 acres amid some of Florida's most prized public preservation and parkland.

For the Public Trust Environmental Law Institute of Florida and co-plaintiffs, the settlement secures a variety of conditions for development that should help protect a sensitive environment and limit impacts on surroundings. It could also set a standard for how future development unfolds regarding environmentally sensitive land in Jacksonville.

The proposed development in Northeast Jacksonville generated one of the biggest city environmental controversies in years. Advocates said the project would bring much needed executive-style homes to Northeast Jacksonville.

But various environmental groups objected, noting the property adjoins scenic Pumpkin Hill Creek marshes and the pristine public lands of the Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve.

The property is about 6 miles from water and sewer lines, raising issues about the proliferation of septic tanks and how far new development should be allowed outside of utility service areas.

The environmentalists sued both the backers of the project and the city, claiming the development was too intense, would harm the environment and that the City Council acted improperly in approving the project.

The settlement ends three lawsuits, although it does not address how the City Council mishandled communications that in part fueled the legal action.

Some environmentalists may argue that the settlement did not go far enough and the lawsuits should have moved forward. However, this settlement gained them far more solid ground than they likely would have achieved otherwise.

The owners, the Ogilvey family, already had development rights to build on the property before obtaining council approval to change the city's comprehensive land use plan to add more homes. …

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