Town’s destiny the center of Orange Park Visioning Committee

By Nick Blank nick@claytodayonline.com
Posted 12/1/21

ORANGE PARK – The Town of Orange Park’s visioning project reviewed town policies, its stance toward businesses and its future Tuesday night.

In late 2019, the town’s visioning process began …

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Town’s destiny the center of Orange Park Visioning Committee

Posted

ORANGE PARK – The Town of Orange Park’s visioning project reviewed town policies, its stance toward businesses and its future Tuesday night.

In late 2019, the town’s visioning process began with the goal of establishing a cohesive direction and identity by 2040. Surveys and workshops have been conducted in the past two years, though officials acknowledged the work is far from over.

Town Manager Sarah Campbell said the town has logistical puzzles it won’t solve immediately, like making the town more walkable. One idea was making a zoning overlay in an area if the development comes to a neighborhood. Early in the meeting, a residential and shopping complex was discussed, a “town square” type of development.

“It’s putting the zoning tools in place, so that if someone wants to come in and create this, they have that tool,” Campbell said.

Mayor Randy Anderson said the town can’t make it hard for businesses to set up shop.

“To bring business to our town, we need to be a more friendly town,” he said.

Committee member Frank Ricketts said attracting businesses isn’t like the saying from the film “Field of Dreams,” where “If you build it, they will come.” He said the market would dictate a lot of what happens to the town, but officials can be proactive.

“The reality of it is, we have to have processes and procedures in place that protect the needs of everybody, and at the same time, be reasonable with our expectations of how we go about doing that,” Ricketts said. Committee member Melba Gordon said a coherent vision for the town required winning the hearts and minds of residents. She and others worried the town could be bypassed by the county’s rapid growth.

“We have the perpetual need to talk this out with the public, talk this out with residents and people who were not involved at the time in the original vision and help them appreciate what we are trying to achieve,” Gordon said.Part of the meeting dealt with quashing rumors or conceptual plans such as a U.S. 17 expansion or an overpass near the town.

“FDOT can’t buy enough right-of-way to make it work. They are not talking about expanding U.S. 17,” Campbell said.

The town can decide its own fate, committee member John Jordan said. He said he remembered when U.S. 17 expanded from two lanes to four lanes.

“If we don’t convince people and tell them ... we are going to be left at other people’s mercy,” Jordan said.

Vice-Mayor Eddie Henley asked what the town was doing to attract families and said the town was the best-kept secret in the area. He felt if the town didn’t act, another entity would act for it.

“What do we have in place that’s tangible, that extends beyond our town limits, that recognizes and sends out information as to who we are, where we are and what we’re about?” Henley asked.

Councilmember John Hauber said the town needed to accommodate growth in its own way via the visioning plan. He wanted the town to be a place where children came back to.

“I think we need to consistently work on it,” Hauber said.

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