Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Residents Critical of Plan County Leaders 'Tweak' It

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Residents Critical of Plan County Leaders 'Tweak' It

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Scanlan, Staff writer

St. Johns County's Northwest Sector Plan, which will guide the way the county's most rapidly growing section is developed during the next few decades, is on its way to Tallahassee for review despite concerns that it needs more scrutiny.

The 17-page plan received unanimous approval from the St. Johns County Commission on Tuesday and the county Planning and Zoning Agency on Jan. 17, after public hearings in front of sparse crowds.

During both, those who voted said they needed to get the plan to the Florida Department of Community Affairs for review now, so it can be made law by spring.

"This is not what I would accept professionally at all, but I understand the need to get it going," zoning agency member Tom Beal said.

"Is it 100 percent? No, we are trying to tweak it now," Commissioner John Reardon said Tuesday.

But residents said the plan still is flawed.

"Where is the plan to acquire right of way? Where is the plan to protect the level of service on roads?" Don Beattie asked.

"Go back and tweak this a bit more," resident Richard Healer added.

The plan is the result of a state Department of Transportation request to decide how the county would handle transportation and growth in the area after rapid development added more traffic than Interstate 95 could handle. It focuses on an 80,000-acre section west of I-95, north of County Road 208 and Florida 16 and south of Julington Creek.

The study started in October 1999, and the commission approved a moratorium on zoning changes in the sector until the plan was approved. It since has extended that moratorium to Feb. 8.

The plan centers on preserving the Northwest's rural character, improving its road system and adding recreation and schools to handle growth. But residents and developers blasted a 42-page draft Nov. 8. There were more concerns when a streamlined version was presented to the County Commission on Dec. 11, and during a packed community meeting in Orangedale on Jan. 7.

Based on those concerns, county Planning Director Teresa Bishop presented a rewritten plan to the zoning agency and commission. …

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