St. Johns Residents Fight Apartments Some Attach Stigma to Affordable Housing

Article excerpt

Byline: Shawna Sundin, Times-Union staff writer

Few of the nearly 100 people who piled into this week's St. Johns County Commission meeting dispute the need for 296 new apartment units in the fast-growing county.

But flames are being fanned over where such housing should be located, with many wanting their Old Dixie Highway neighborhood off limits.

Commissioners have been asked to rezone 24 acres near Nease High School to allow development of the 296-unit apartment complex with affordable housing.

Most of the 25 people who spoke in favor of the development do not live near it and are for it because it would provide lower-income residents -- including those who commute from Duval County to work in St. Johns County -- the chance to live in St. Johns, where property is more expensive than in nearby counties.

But many of the 15 who spoke against the proposed development at Old Dixie Highway and Ray Road fear it will increase traffic and school enrollments, said it isn't compatible with surrounding single-family neighborhoods. They also fear the development will lower property values.

An anonymously distributed flier encouraged neighbors to attend the commission meeting because "our high school does not need the possibility of promiscuous behavior that can be associated with this type of apartment building."

The development would probably be a mixed-income complex with some apartments being rented for less than market value to those who qualify and some being rented for market value, said Mark Timmerman, director of construction services for developer BNG Partners.

If the commission approves rezoning the land from single-family residential to planned-unit development, the developer would apply for federal tax credits that if granted would lower the development's cost and the rent, said Tom Crawford, director of housing and community services for St. …

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