Publication Date: 10/07/09

The St. Johns County Commission approved two adjacent developments off U.S. 1 South on Tuesday — one commercial, residential and industrial, the other purely residential — on 270 acres near the Flagler County line.

Both developments will be connected by interior roads and operate under the same name — Hyde Park.

One expensive hurdle the developer must clear before commencing construction is laying out $8.2 million to construct a 7.5-mile-long water line and sewer line from State Road 206 to both sites.

That may mean that little will be developed over the next three years or so until the water and sewer lines are installed.

Residents along Faver Dykes Road, a narrow lane that runs along the property’s southern edge, told the board that building activity, as well as noise and light pollution will frighten away the fox, bear, turkeys and occasional panther who live in the undisturbed forest.

And, they added, runoff from the site would ultimately ruin near pristine Pellicer Creek.

Local resident Greg McDonald said, “Poor Pellicer Creek.”

Lifelong Pellicer Creek resident Frankie Pacetti said, “This was definitely the wrong thing to do. It’s all about money. (The commission) could care less about the environment or the people here.”

Her neighbor, Glenda Delany Frawley, who owns 12 acres abutting Faver Dykes Road, said the state once had a chance to buy the property but didn’t.

“We lost it years ago,” Frawley said, shaking her head.

The developer presented figures showing that the county will collect $3.3 million in impact fees from Hyde Park, and significant property and sales taxes after its completion.

The project’s western 90 acres will feature 295,000 square feet of commercial space, 55,000 square feet of office space and 25 single-family homes.

The eastern portion of 179 acres may have 37 single-family homes on one-acre lots. Roughly 92 percent, or 165 acres, will stay undeveloped due to the more than 1,000 endangered gopher tortoise that have been counted there.

The developer, Edmond R. Saoud of First Coast Ventures LLC, did not attend the hearing but was represented by attorney Doug Burnett of St. Johns Law Group.

“We feel strongly that this is a site poised for development,” Burnett said. “As the years go by, there will be a demand for this project.”

In 2006, the same developer presented a plan to build 500 homes across the entire site. That application was withdrawn, Burnett said.

This application offers 180 acres of open space, “green” development, treated runoff and .17 acre impact to wetlands. In addition, the project had a reduced footprint of 13 percent, or 89,000 square feet, he said.

According to a report from Fishkind & Associates of Orlando, commissioned by the developer to study the economics of the project, “There are a lot of people looking at the area and saying, ‘This is where growth will occur over time.’ Things change a lot in three years.”

One bone of contention in the earlier application, rejected by the PZA in July, was the two six-story hotels with a combined 175 rooms on Faver Dykes Road. This was opposed strongly by the residents, so it was moved to the U.S. 1 side of the project, Burnett said.

The residents said that there once were seven businesses nearby, but three or four were long gone.

Elizabeth Nauright, a Faver Dykes Road resident, said there are empty businesses and homes all across the county.

She said, “Why would tourists want to stay 20 miles out of town? We’re not near anything, and we like it that way. Where is the need? Why disrupt the environment to build more empty businesses?”

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