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Becton a Leading Voice in Defeating Mandarin Rezoning of County Dock bill

A proposed re-zoning bill (2016-805) that would have placed as many as 20 homes on a 9-acre site along County Dock Road in the “V” of Scott Mill and Loretto Road was defeated by a vote of 14-5 at the July 25, 2017 City Council meeting. Had the bill passed, many live oaks, some as old as 200 years, and other protected trees would have to be cut down to make way for the new home sites. Developers placed the homes in the $600,000 range.

The bill brought out over 300 area residents to two town hall meetings held by District Councilman Matt Schellenberg who ultimately supported the project. The residents objected to the density increase from one lot per acre to RLD90 allowing over 4 units per acre with average lot sizes in the range of 9,900 sq. ft. This density increase along with safety concerns and the fact that County Dock road is an historic designation and cannot be widened, brought out the neighborhood in a very passionate opposition to this bill. “Already large vehicles in opposite directions have trouble passing each other”, commented one Mandarin resident. “The roadway is only 16ft wide and based on the opinion of city planners, fire trucks and emergency vehicles will have trouble getting in and out of this proposed community”.

The bill first landed in the Land Use and Zoning Committee “LUZ” on June 20th where the committee recommended passage of the bill, 6-1 with LUZ Chair CM Danny Becton casting the only dissenting vote against the rezoning. Citing in addition to those safety concerns, CM Becton discussed how the RLD90 lot sizes were out-of-character for the Mandarin community, which he compared to Riverside, Springfield and San Marco. “This area of Mandarin is historic and is second to none in its uniqueness and character based on our comprehensive plan.” This area reminds me of home with its big lot sizes and huge Oak trees that make this area of our city very special”. “Allowing this rezoning would have a detrimental effect on the future of this area and property values,” CM Becton exclaimed.

During the LUZ committee, District CM Schellenberg amended the bill to make County Dock Road a one-way road citing this change to compensation for the safety concerns. The bill as approved headed to the next full Council meeting June 27th for final passage.

At the full council meeting again, CM Becton was among those who spoke out against the re-zoning. In one of his final acts as chair of the Land Use and Zoning Committee he moved to have the bill re-referred back to LUZ as the debate did not appear to be reaching a compromise before the full council.

On July 18th, the LUZ committee again, debated this bill. New was the fact that the LUZ committee was under new leadership due to the new council year. District CM Schellenberg was now chair of LUZ and CM Becton a member. Also joining the committee was former Council President Lori Boyer a veteran of land use and zoning matters.

At the LUZ meeting, again CM Becton spoke out in opposition of the rezoning:

This rezoning, we have a buyer and seller agreeing on a price, because of that price, it affects this rezoning and our decisions based on:

  1. # of home being built

  2. Size of the lots

  3. Ability to deliver on the sale of those homes

  4. Therefore, property values around the area will be affected as a result.

    Because of the agreed upon price, this developer has to build homes in the $625 range to be profitable.

To build homes like this, you are looking at properties that have coverage including the home of 45%, with the addition of the driveway, walk-ways and possible pools, you are looking at coverage in excess of 70%+. Side buffers will be 5ft and MOST ALL TREES removed, only to have new ones replanted where they can.

 If you look at history of developments within the area, a recent example that has been shown is a new development called “The Bluff on Plummer’s Cove”. This development is off Scott Mill Road and has river access properties. Homes in this community first tried to be sold for $400k-500k. Now they are advertising $350s. Why is this important?

Because, this is evidence that homes that can be said to have better amenities, “river access”, better ingress/egress, “Scott Mill Road”, have struggled to reach the price point here on similar RLD90, 9,900 sq. ft. lots.

This is the type of result that can have a devastating effect on property values of those around, if we and this developer get it wrong.

 There is the issue that RAMSGATE is RLD90s ¼ acre lots. RAMSGATE are $200k homes not $600k+ homes, built in 1974. (RLD90 then, not the same as today, given that our code was not adopted until 1990. The differences of those homes is as follows:

a. The side and back yard setbacks vs. today are much greater.

b. The properties immediately to the north of the property are 2.8 acres, 1.32 acres, 2.03 acres and on Drakewood Court, they are .32 acres, .4 acres, .27 acres and .33 acres. Again, all properties to the north immediately adjacent are greater than ¼ acre.

c. The properties immediately to the west and adjacent to the development are 2.81 acres and .72 acres;

d. The properties immediately to the south are .96 acres, .58 acres, .91 acres, .61 acres and .43 acres.

e. The PUD subdivisions south of Loretto Road, developed after the 1990 adoption, were developed at densities significantly greater than 1/4 acre.

Therefore, it can be argued easily that this PUD is NOT consistent with the standards for the development in the surrounding area due to their lots sizes being significantly less square footage.

We can also point to the “Character” of the “Area”. This part of Mandarin is Historic with Huge Oaks trees, large lots. When we discuss Character as a Criteria and we have definitely done so in Riverside, Springfield and San Marco, Mandarin is second to none on that list. If you cannot find “Character” as a serious criteria which is of concern here, then please let’s DROP THAT TERM FROM OUR CODE, it does not exist anywhere.

Lastly, let’s talk about PUBLIC SAFETY. Now that we are back to the Two-Way Road, in the Planning Commission meeting, Ms. Santana was asked, to describe “how safe is County Dock Rd, based on people, the trips, and the size of the road”? Ms. Santana stated, “It’s not safe, right now”, “like they were saying, they can’t maneuver in and out”, “You cannot get fire trucks through there nor school buses”. “So as it is, it’s a very narrow, very contained roadway”. As a result, the Planning Commission voted to deny this rezoning.

The result of this July 18th meeting was again a committee recommendation of passage as the bill was approved by 5-2 with CM Becton and Boyer dissenting in their vote against the rezoning.

Finally, the full council meeting of July 25th again had strong debate for and against the rezoning. CM Becton was among those who spoke out against the re-zoning along with CM Boyer. In a surprising outcome, the Full Council voted 14-5 to deny the rezoning. Needless to say, Mandarin residents were first shocked, then thrilled of this outcome. As one Mandarin resident was asked, when did you know the tide was turning? “As we were watching the debate and then the vote, at no time did we suspect the outcome we got.” “As the vote was taken, we looked up and could not believe what just happened, we won!”

For this outcome, CM Becton, at every opportunity voted against the bill agreeing with the Mandarin community that this rezoning was “Not Right for Mandarin”.

www.news4jax.com/news/city-council-votes-down-mandarin-zoning-change

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