GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The city council tentatively approved nearly $11 million of increases Tuesday night for its next operating budget, while slightly decreasing its capital improvement budget for …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The city council tentatively approved nearly $11 million of increases Tuesday night for its next operating budget, while slightly decreasing its capital improvement budget for fiscal year 2021-22.
As the town continues to wrestle with the growing pains of rapid development, the council now will put an increase of $10,887,368 to an operating budget of $55,827,685 up for a final vote at its Sept. 21 meeting.
The council also voted to send a five-year capital improvement budget of $25,800,159 to a final vote at its next meeting.
The increases apparently will be offset by the city’s rapid development. With so many next houses and communities opening, under construction or in the planning stages, the council accepted a staff recommendation to set the next millage rate at 3.8 – which essentially is the same as last year, not counting a 2.82% rollback adjustment. The 3.8 millage rate is expected to generate $2,114,555 in revenue, according to the city’s director of finance, Marlena Guthrie.
While the city council took a step toward finalizing its budget for next year, the also took the first step to allow the possible development of a 9.4-acre tract behind the Cove Plaza for as many as 112 new “high-end” condominiums. The council agreed to amend ordinances changing the heavily-wooded area in the 1300 block of Energy Cove Court from Mixed Use Highway and General Commercial to Residential High Density.
The city’s zoning and planning department recommended the changes, but the council said it needed a lot of answers, especially about traffic on Cooks Lane and U.S. Highway 17 before the project can proceed. They didn’t want the additional traffic created by new homes – as well as another adjoining development that could result in the construction of as many as 1,200 homes for the Ayrshire Development on 560.52 acres at the old Gustafson cattle farm.
The new condos would have 1,002.23 square feet and feature three bedrooms and two baths.
Mayor Ed Gaw said he not only doesn’t want residential traffic running through the industrial park on Energy Cove Court, he’s concerned about the long-term effect of traffic on U.S. 17, especially the cars that will be traveling north through town. When the First Coast Expressway and new Shands Bridge are completed, it will further exasperate the situation – especially since it’s not feasible to widen U.S. 17 through the middle of town.
“There will be a lot of cars turning left [from the new developments] onto [U.S.] 17,” he said. “The intersection at 17 and Ferris Street will be a problem, especially if people have to sit through three light changes.”
Collin Groff, who represented the potential developers Black Creek Engineers, said there are no plans to build an access into the complex from Energy Cove Court. He said they insist traffic should be routed along Cooks Lane.
“This property doesn’t want access to Energy Cove Court,” he said. “There most likely will be some road improvements.”
Councilman Steven Thomas said it will take a lot of improvements since Cook Lane is narrow, has two blind turns and is in constant need of repairs.
Since one of the key selling points of the condos is the ability to walk to shops at Cove Plaza. Cooks Road would have to be reconfigured with curbing and sidewalks if it’s to accommodate additional traffic and pedestrians.
The council still moved the project forward but insists it will need a traffic study before going any further.
In other business, the council approved assessments for solid waste and stormwater management services for Magnolia West.
The next meeting, which will include final approval of next year’s budget, is at 7 p.m. on Sept. 21 at City Hall.