St. Johns County has grown by nearly 44% over the past decade, 2020 Census figures show. It’s the second-fastest growing county in Florida.
On Jan. 25, county officials hosted a meeting about growth management. Dozens of residents showed up and most spoke out against overdevelopment. See transcript of meeting. Download video. See data on planned developments.
Bobbie Stewart, an instructor at Flagler College, told the crowd that she recently taught a course on climate change and cultural identity.
“As part of the course, we sent out a survey in December that gauged perspectives of the particular residents in the city of St. Augustine. We received 175 responses to the survey. I am here to report the results. There were 44 mentions of these things related to the quality of life in our county: overdevelopment, population density, tourism, loss of land and cutting down of trees, excessive traffic, burdens on infrastructure, hotel proliferation and coastal erosion.
“Now I will … read verbatim some statements. Again, these are residents in the city of St. Augustine and some comments.”
“We need to stop all building. We have enough hotels, restaurants, motels, etc. Our land and water is not really ours. We are the stewards of these resources for the time we are here.”
“While the city does a fairly good job of this, the county does not. The county’s allowing these resources to be overdeveloped and therefore, destroyed.”
“I’m very concerned about the overbuilding in the county. With a large increase in population and tourism, it is vital we take steps to protect our natural environment.”
“Protected lands are being developed.
“Hideous cheap and ugly hotels have sprung up.
“I am disappointed with how the area has expanded so rapidly without proper planning for infrastructure.”
Brian Anderson, a resident in Nocatee, said many developments lack sidewalks, creating a safety hazard.
“My biggest complaint was if you going to grow in the area, where are the sidewalks? What’s happening with infrastructure and mobility for pedestrians? It’s gotten worse.
“As far as kids going to school safely, there is nothing, just development, development, development and with no, ‘how were going to get from one part of the area to the other, walking or riding a bike?’”
Mike Roberson, director of growth management in St. Johns County, said officials face many challenges as they try to balance the pros and cons of growth.
“It’s a great county. Everyone wants to move here,” he said. “We don’t not want people to come here, but how do we deal with that?”