Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Nocatee Opponents Question Its Necessity

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Nocatee Opponents Question Its Necessity

Article excerpt

Byline: Shawna Sundin, Times-Union staff writer

Supporters and opponents of a proposed mega-development that could add 35,000 people to 15,000 acres straddling St. Johns and Duval counties reiterated their feelings this week during a hearing that will help decide whether the small town can move forward.

The hearing started Tuesday and continues next week. It was scheduled after the Sierra Club and St. Johns County resident Ellen Whitmer challenged amendments approved by the county to its comprehensive plan.

Key among those amendments was the creation of a new land-use designation -- called new town -- for Nocatee.

One area of disagreement is whether Nocatee is necessary in fast-growing St. Johns County, where several other developments already are in the works.

Another sticking point is whether the project actually will be a sustainable community, as touted by its developers, where people live, work, go to school and shop without having to drive elsewhere.

During opening statements, John DeVault III, an attorney who represents Nocatee's developers, The Parc Group, said officials chose an innovative way to deal with growth by creating the "new town" designation. The new category allows an area to function as its own town, with houses, offices, schools, churches, stores and parks.

But the Sierra Club, in its petition, argues that the county's amendments to its comprehensive plan don't conserve and protect wildlife and the habitat, don't ensure protection of natural resources, and will result in urban sprawl.

Whitmer's petition says the Florida Department of Community Affairs' approval of the county's comprehensive plan amendments is inconsistent with the state comprehensive plan and that Nocatee will create urban sprawl because it is several miles away from existing urban areas. …

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