City explores annexing former Navy housing

Kile Brewer
Posted 11/8/17

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – After a month with no meetings, the Green Cove Springs City Council made up for lost time Tuesday with an almost 5-hour meeting.

Development Services Director Janis Fleet …

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City explores annexing former Navy housing

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – After a month with no meetings, the Green Cove Springs City Council made up for lost time Tuesday with an almost 5-hour meeting.

Development Services Director Janis Fleet asked council for direction on the city’s six-part annexation plan. City staff started to make moves on the first of the six properties they hope to add to the city, an 80-acre area that houses the St. Johns Landing Apartments, currently in unincorporated Clay County.

“We have been working diligently with the property owners, because we got a request from the owners of St. Johns Landing about their desire to annex into the city,” Fleet said.

Fleet said that she and her staff have figured out a way to make the annexation happen, but needed a go-ahead from council before beginning any formal annexation procedure. The decision would not be a guaranteed yes vote for the city to annex the property, but would allow Fleet to put together a proposal that she can bring back once all parties involved have reached some common ground. Originally built as housing for U.S. Navy families when Lee Field was in operation through World War II, the complex is currently operated by Atlantic Realty as an apartment community.

“I think this is a wonderful complement to our land mass and our city,” said Council member Pam Lewis.

Most council members agreed that this annexation is one that “makes sense,” as council member Steven Kelley put it, because the area is already hooked up to the city’s electric service and wastewater systems. However, council member Van Royal brought up some concerns that might come up as the city continues through the annexation process.

“This is the one area of annexation that kind of goes either way for me,” Royal said. “The problem that I see is that until you have a different development, it’s a cost to the city.”

Royal mentioned that the area has been the site of continued grandiose plans for new development that would make the annexation a no-brainer for the city. However, Royal said that these talks have been going on since he moved to Green Cove Springs in the 1980s. For him, the city would gain nothing from the annexation as the property stands today.

Fleet said there were some plans in place, which Royal requested be sent to all members of the council as soon as possible. He said that before he could vote yes on anything related to this annexation, he would need to see that the city would gain something from this property.

Members of the council discussed Royal’s concerns, but maintained a positive outlook on the annexation with the hopes that it will be redeveloped in the future as the First Coast Expressway moves closer to the city. The third leg, which is expected to begin construction in 2019, will run from Blanding Boulevard at Branan Field Road through Southern Clay County and connect with a new Shands Bridge.

“I think we would be very shortsighted not to think that development is going to come this way,” said Mayor Mitch Timberlake. “Nobody has a crystal ball that can say somebody’s going to buy it tomorrow, or six months, or six years from now and do something with it. What we do know is – riverfront property is valuable, and it is very attractive.”

Council voted 4-1 to authorize Fleet to continue with annexation planning. Royal voted no on the measure.

In other council business, City Manager Danielle Judd set the date for the next public visioning session to be held on a Saturday where members of the public are welcome to come sit with the council and voice their hopes and dreams for the future of Green Cove Springs. The visioning session is tentatively scheduled for March 3, 2018 and residents will receive updates through the mail as the date approaches.

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