Q&A with St. Johns County Commissioner Jimmy Johns (District 1)

Q: Can you shed any light on the latest status of Hallowes Cove, the pristine area of the St. Johns River within the RiverTown development on State Road 13?

A: This is the second or third time the subject of a marina at this location has come up. Years ago,the Development of Regional Impact (DRI) for RiverTown was approved with a prohibition of any marina being built here. When Mattamy bought the property, they bought it with this approved DRI. Now it seems they want to build a 250 slip marina on the passive riverfront park at the mouth of Hallowes Cove.

I certainly haven’t heard an outcry from the community in favor of a marina. The last couple of times this came up, I received feedback from the community that they didn’t want this property disturbed for a marina. I told the developer this and they withdrew the request, but sometimes developers refile to see if the community has had a change of heart.

It hasn’t come to the Board of County Commissioners yet. It would require a major modification with public hearings, meetings and the permitting process to change this use of land. I like to ask, what’s the benefit? Is it to the community or to the individual requesting the change? So I need to hear from people in the community if they want or don’t want a marina.

Q: Can you comment on the contract status of County Administrator Michael Wanchick?

A: I think it is important for people to realize how impactful this position is to their daily lives — and I think he’s done a good job. The Board of County Commissioners can only hire two positions: the county attorney and the county administrator. Michael Wanchick has asked to be retained in his position for one or two years and then he wants to retire.

After more than 10 years in this position, he has a lot of institutional knowledge that is hard to immediately duplicate. I think we need to make sure we determine how much time we would need to get someone up to speed to replace him whenever that time comes. Should we look within the county or elsewhere? I like to look to the inside, but not to exclude a potential superstar from the outside.

The Board of County Commissioners agreed to postpone this discussion to our second meeting in May. This was a good compromise for our new commissioner, who felt he needed time for research, as well as to not make too late of a decision which might leave staff wondering if Wanchick would be here for the next round of decisions.

Q: What can you tell us about the status of the new fire station for the Northwest?
A: This project is fully funded and permitting is underway, although a ribbon cutting date is still to be determined. I look forward to an additional fire station that will improve response times for our first responders as well as lower insurance rates for our residents. There are multiple benefits to the new neighborhoods in the area as well as the new Town Center.

Q: What is the best way for our readers to contact you?

A: Readers can email me at bcc1jjohns@sjcfl.us or call me at (904) 615-7437.