By Martie Thompson

More than 100 people filled the room at the Bartram Trail Branch Library for the Dec. 5 community meeting hosted by St. Johns Law Group and their client, Ash Properties, to share their plans for proposed development at the northeast corner of Greenbriar Road and State Road 13. This meeting was not the official neighborhood meeting required by the county, because an application to change the zoning to accommodate the proposed development hasn’t yet been filed. Instead, said attorney Doug Burnett, the meeting was an attempt to get community feedback early in the process.

“We want to listen to you,” said Ash Properties’ chief operating officer, Randall Whitfield. “We took your concerns from the previous meeting [in August] and we have revised our plans. Now we want more feedback.”

The proposed plans for the 13.5 acre parcel would include multiple single-level buildings with elevated architectural details and facades. Burnett said the potential tenants would be compatible with neighborhood commercial development, such as salons and restaurants. 

Burnett then went through comments that he said they heard from attendees of the previous meeting that addressed items such as increased traffic, safety of children walking to and from Switzerland Point Middle School and Hickory Creek Elementary School, and the desire for park space.

The proposed plan presented on Dec. 5 addressed the traffic issue with a proposed roundabout at the corner of Greenbriar Road and State Road 13, the safety issue with sidewalks around the entire perimeter of the property, and the addition of some greenspace with benches in the corner of the property.

“We want the development to be user and walker friendly,” said Whitfield.

When public comment began, it was clear that the community members in attendance were still opposed to the project.

Al Abbatiello, chairman of the William Bartram Scenic and Historic Highway Management Group, complimented the project, but said it was in the wrong place and not compatible with the rural nature of the area.

“The fact is that commercial development within 600 feet of the centerline of the Scenic Highway is not permitted under the county plan,” Abbatiello said, referring to the 2025 Comprehensive Plan A1.3.8 that specifies no commercial development on the Scenic Highway.

Karen Roumillat of the Stetson Kennedy Foundation also spoke out against the project and said that the board of directors of the foundation has voted to deny any development that does not preserve the unique character of the area, which includes not only the William Bartram Scenic and Historic Highway but also the National Literary Landmark, Beluthahatchee.

Ash Properties is in the process of purchasing the property, but the sale is not yet final. After that, the next step in this process would be for them to file an application with the county. Burnett said at the meeting that they may need an amendment to the comprehensive plan and the development would likely need to be a PUD, as required by the Northwest Sector Plan.

Photos by Martie Thompson 
It was standing room only at the meeting.

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