Green Cove Springs exploring challenges to traffic, lack of parking

Council approves first reading of rezoning request for “Dollar Tree” corner

By Don Coble don@opcfla.com
Posted 5/5/21

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The city council addressed two of its most pressing issues Tuesday night – traffic and parking.

Not only did the city get an update on roadway construction projects, the …

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Green Cove Springs exploring challenges to traffic, lack of parking

Council approves first reading of rezoning request for “Dollar Tree” corner

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The city council addressed two of its most pressing issues Tuesday night – traffic and parking.

Not only did the city get an update on roadway construction projects, the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization told the council an $80,000 study already has been earmarked for Orange Avenue through the middle of town. Shortly afterwards, Michael Daniels told the council the Green Cove Springs Planning and Zoning Department recommended approval to rezone a 1.26-acre parcel from Gateway Corridor Commercial to Central Business District so developers can expand commerce on the corner of the busiest intersection in town at South Orange Avenue and Ferris Street.

Developers of the property, known as the “Dollar Tree,” is a complex that’s also home to Green Cove Dental, the Clay County Probation office and Andrews Auto Broker, want new zoning so they would have better flexibility to expand. If approved, it would be the first parcel in the Central Business District to be south of Ferris.

While the council approved, 5-0, the first reading of the request, all had concerns about parking.

“Parking [in the downtown area] has been a hot topic and it’s going to be a hot topic,” councilman Steven Kelley said.

The current lot has 60 parking spaces. The new proposed zoning would require the developers to expand parking to 78. That drew an immediate reaction from the council, which already has been wrestling with the lack of parking in the downtown area.

Mayor Van Royal said businesses already struggle with parking in the Central Business District, which currently stretches north of Ferris from the St. Johns River to Green Street and includes a large portion of the downtown area to North Street. Drivers are forced to find spot along the street, in a handful of smaller private lots or in public lots which requires walking to the business.

Royal said it’s best to know ahead of any development where customers will park.

“Not knowing is not good,” he said.

Royal also said the lack of downtown parking is one reason why many retailers and restaurants have avoided opening their doors in the heart of the city.

City Manager Steve Kennedy said the demand for parking spaces have been “exhausted.”

Daniels said it would be up to the developers, Janis Fleet, Fleet and Associates, would be responsible for expanding the number of parking spaces on the parcel, or find an “alternative” option which would include businesses agreeing to share their designated spaces. Councilmen seemed unsettled with an agreement that would allow new businesses to count on public spaces to fulfill their quotas.

The council also didn’t like any plan that would require customers to cross busy Orange Avenue (U.S. Highway 17).

Kennedy reminded the council the first reading was to address a request to rezone the property so developers could explore expansion. Any project that could move forward would have to comply with existing rules already in place for the Central Business District.

Daniels said other areas that would have to be addressed would be a requirement to abide by the district’s landscaping polices, comply with the Florida Department of Transportation’s sight triangle requirements, have approval from FDOT on driveway locations and forcing the developers comply with city code for the placements of dumpsters and loading docks.

Nonetheless, Daniels said his department suggested the project be approved. The council eventually agreed.

In other business, the council agreed on proclamations honoring National Public Service Recognition Week and National Polic Week.

Also, the council approved the expenditure of $7,500 to the Design Loan Agreement for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Drinking Water State Revolving Fun Loan Application and $356,800 for design of capital improvements to the city’s water system; spending $50,111.16 to KBT Contracting Corp. for a new library building; an $87,000 expense to build a drive-through canopy at the Food Pantry of Green Cove Springs; allowing Amanda Upton of the police department to attend a Special Event Planning and Management Training in Orlando; and, the agreement between Kennedy to executive a Professional Services Agreement with Planet Swim.

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