Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Comprehensive Plan Undergoes Changes Coastal Areas Getting Attention

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Comprehensive Plan Undergoes Changes Coastal Areas Getting Attention

Article excerpt

Some changes in the St. Johns County Comprehensive Plan will target coastal areas, Scott Clem, director of the county planning and zoning department, told the Ponte Vedra Beach Community Association Wednesday.

In December, Clem began a tour of citizens groups and homeowners associations to explain and get input about the evaluation and appraisal process the Comprehensive Plan is undergoing. The plan was written in 1990 to regulate growth, transportation, parks and recreation, housing and land use in the county.

Proposals dealing with density and concurrency issues are of particular interest to Ponte Vedra Beach residents.

"As part of this update, we're proposing to cap density allowed in coastal areas to eight units per acre; now it is 13," Clem said. "We're trying to limit the densities and in some cases prevent someone from asking for an increase. We don't have a whole lot of land area left at that higher density."

One reason to limit densities in coastal areas is to ensure safe hurricane evacuation. Because the area east of Florida A1A is considered a "high hazard area" for even minimal hurricanes, amendments to the plan should not be approved if they would result in increased evacuation time. Another proposal prohibits new facilities such as nursing homes within the coastal high hazard area, because they can be a problem to evacuate, Clem said.

One misused policy in the original Comprehensive Plan allowed developers to ask the county to rezone residential property to commercial, putting the burden on the county to come up with evidence to deny it.

"We think that's backwards," Clem said. "We think the applicant should have to demonstrate there is a need to convert residential to commercial."

Last year, the community association and other citizens groups fought to prevent Compass Bank from rezoning property on Florida A1A from residential to commercial to build a branch bank. Although Compass eventually decided to build elsewhere, residents are afraid that commercial development is still a threat at that site. …

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