Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Plan for County Is Iffy Various Groups Oppose Portions

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Plan for County Is Iffy Various Groups Oppose Portions

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Scanlan, Times-Union staff writer

A plan to guide the way northwest St. Johns County communities grow in coming decades is on its way to the County Commission for a final review and vote.

But the county's Planning and Zoning Agency sent it to the commission with a 5-2 no-confidence vote after residents, environmentalists and developers protested aspects of it during a five-hour hearing Thursday.

The Northwest Sector Plan is the result of a two-year study by county planners and numerous meetings with residents of the 80,000-acre area to come up with a template to manage future development and transportation needs.

The 42-page document must be approved by the county by Dec. 31 so the Florida Department of Community Affairs can incorporate it into the county's Comprehensive Zoning Plan.

If approved, it would divide St. Johns County's booming Northwest sector, made up of communities such as Fruit Cove, Switzerland, Orangedale and Sampson, into community planning areas consisting of neighborhoods interconnected with interior roads, all accessible to proposed neighborhood schools and small retail and office centers.

It also could mandate that developers pay for growth-related impacts by forming special assessment or taxing districts.

County Commissioner Nicholas Meiszer, who represents the area, said he's not in favor of the proposed funding source for improvements, which might see homeowners in big developments pay an annual assessment fee, like Julington Creek Plantation's Community Development District does now.

"The track records of CDDs has been mixed at best around the state, and [it] adds another layer of government, because the residents elect the trustees," he said.

Community activist Sarah Bailey, who attended the PZA meeting and is part of the Northwest St. County Coalition, said it seems to cater to developers. …

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