St. Johns County officials asked the state of Florida to fast-track a major change – adding 5,600 dwelling units and 2,394 acres to a huge residential development called SilverLeaf.
State officials rejected the proposal, saying it exceeded both state and county guidelines.
“…the County should resubmit the amendment package under the state coordinated review process because the proposed development exceeds the statewide guidelines and standards in s. 380.0651, F.S., is not otherwise exempt pursuant to s. 380.0651, F.S., is not consistent with the County’s current comprehensive plan, and goes beyond the boundary of the existing DRI development order,” wrote Tom Thomas, general counsel for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
Thomas’ Dec. 13 letter added, “The Department is only weighing in at this time on the propriety of the submission process of the amendment package. We have not reviewed, and current have no comment on, the merits of the submission.”
On Jan. 10, the county resubmitted its amendment package, which the county commissioners adopted on Dec. 21.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission analyzed the site and found that it could impact several species, including the gopher tortoise, the bald eagle, the Eastern indigo snake, the Florida pine snake, the Florida sandhill crane, wading birds, the Southeastern American kestrel and the Black Creek crayfish.
The commission said in a Nov. 23, 2021, letter that it has received 46 reports of “human-bear conflicts within a 5-mile radius of the project site since 2000. Florida black bears are common in this area which is within the Central Bear Management Unit identified in the 2019 Bear Management Plan. While black bears tend to shy away from people, they are adaptable and will take advantage of human-provided food sources. This includes sources that are currently available near the site, sources that may be available during construction, and sources available after construction including unsecured garbage, pet food, and bird seed. Once bears become accustomed to finding food around people, their natural wariness is reduced to a point that there can be an increased risk to public safety or private property.”
The county’s proposed changes would:
- Add 2,394 acres to the development.
- Increase office space from 650,000 square feet to 900,000 square feet.
- Increase single-family homes from 6,800 to 9,800.
- Increase multi-family residential units from 3,900 to 4,500.
- Add 2,000 age-restricted residential homes.
- Increase open space from 3,690 acres to 4,350 acres, and boost wetland impact cap from 398 acres to 475 acres.
- Allow use of shallow or intermediate wells for irrigation.
- Increase contribution for regional road improvements from $78.5 million to $108.7 million for the SR 13 Connector and Silver Lake Drive.
Some residents have spoken out against the development. A Sept. 7, 2021, comment by Judith Jackson read:
“We moved to this area in 2008 to get away from all the congestion in Ormond Beach. It was a quiet area with little traffic until you went bonkers with development. If you continue to destroy all of the available land around us, we will be forced to look elsewhere again. A 10,000-home development at SilverLeaf is too much for the commercial facilities and schools to bear. What ever happened to moderation?”