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

Q: Can you give us any information about the proposed development at the corner of Race Track Road and St. Johns Parkway?
A: This proposed development, which is slated to include retail, townhomes and apartments, has already come before the Board of County Commissioners due to the rezoning request. We approved the PUD and transmitted it to the state of Florida for their review. The proposed development is in compliance with what would be along a major arterial roadway, which Race Track Road is now. 

Q: Are you aware of some of the concerns that community members have to this proposed development?
A: Yes. The ones I have heard are it will include too much traffic, there is not enough school capacity and it would be detrimental to area home values. 

County staff has determined that the roads in front of the property have capacity. The part of Race Track Road to the east (the two-laned part) is already deficient, but will be addressed when the state widens Race Track Road and the overpass when it widens Interstate 95. As for the schools, the developer will be paying the St. Johns County School District an amount of money that the school district has determined is sufficient to meet the demands of the increase in students. Finally, it’s a delicate balance as to property values. We as a county need to provide affordable housing, but don’t want to have any negative impacts. This development will not be subsidized but will be at market rates. A diversified housing market is just as important as diversified employment for the economic health of the county. Experts have told me that this is a good blend/transition from the residential developments to the west of the property and the retail (Durbin Park) to the east.

Q: Do you know when the state will be widening Interstate 95/Race Track Road to provide traffic relief in that area?

A: This project has been funded, which is very important and signals that it should be happening “soon,” but we don’t know exactly when. Just a guess from me, based on today’s information, would be in the two to five year time frame.

Q: What’s the next step for this proposed development?

A: The request will come back to the Board of County Commissioners for final review. I believe it will be on our early August meeting agenda. I’ll be watching closely for any changes made since our previous review that might impact the community in any way. 

Q: Moving on to another proposed development, can you comment on the proposed gas station for the property on State Road 13 near Otoes Place?
A: I have not been provided with any details yet on this proposal. I’ve always supported commercial development that is an enhancement to the community and is welcomed by neighbors. This particular project was proposed a few years ago and the proposal was withdrawn. So my first question would be, what is different this time that we should consider it? 

I would encourage readers to monitor the Development Tracker on the St. Johns County website (www.sjcfl.us/DevelopmentReview/DevTracker.aspx) to stay up to date on the very latest proposed developments.

Q: Can you give us any insight as to the budget process that is ongoing?
A: For the first time in several years, we will have a $15.5 million budget surplus (even after contributing to the reserve fund) and I would like to applaud our staff for guiding us through challenging times while still meeting our core responsibilities of health, safety and welfare of the community. Also, I’d like to thank the department heads that still reduced their budgets from last year in a sign of fiscal responsibility. The board has not yet decided what to do with the surplus and we are still soliciting ideas from community members. One possibility is to catch up on some deferred maintenance and so I have asked staff to provide a list of all deferred maintenance projects and costs so we can try to determine where we will get the biggest return on any investment. The final budget hearing will be in September, where we will fix the budget and set the ad valorem rate, but not necessarily decide exactly what to do with the surplus.

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.