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Peyton uses first-ever veto on Baymeadows developm

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Peyton says no to new homes

Mayor vetoes a developer's plan to build 1,400 units off Baymeadows Road.

By DAVID BAUERLEIN

The Times-Union

Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton brandished his veto pen for the first time Tuesday and rejected an agreement that would have let a developer build 1,400 homes on the fairways of Baymeadows Golf Club.

Peyton said redevelopment of the golf course would have worsened traffic jams on Baymeadows Road, which already is bumper to bumper.

"I'm vetoing this legislation because I can't let it go forward in good conscience," Peyton said. "There is no scenario that makes adding 1,000 [rush-hour] trips a day to Baymeadows Road a positive thing for the people of Jacksonville. Preserving our quality of life -- including minimizing the time our citizens spend waiting in traffic -- is critically important to all of us."

Peyton's veto means D.R. Horton cannot proceed with the development unless the City Council overrides the veto with 13 of 19 votes.

Two weeks ago, the council voted 11-8 to allow redevelopment of the golf course in exchange for Horton doing at least $4.9 million of work on Baymeadows Road. Horton filed its application through the city's fair share program that lets development add traffic on over-capacity roads if the developer will pay to help widen roads.

Horton is reviewing its options and the company is "very disappointed that Mayor Peyton has decided, on the last day of a process which has been ongoing for several months, that he cannot support the city's reviewing agencies and the City Council in their decision," said Bob Porter, a senior vice president for the company.

He noted that a report done in 2002 recommended ways to improve traffic flow on Baymeadows Road, but neither the state Department of Transportation nor the city have funded any of those suggestions. Porter said Horton's fair share payments would have done some of those recommendations.

Councilman Art Graham, who spearheaded opposition to the fair share application, said he was surprised by the veto.

"I just thought this was something my constituents were going to have to take to court," he said.

Before Peyton's veto, the council and Mayor's Office had supported 180 fair share applications since the program began in 1998.

Council Vice President Kevin Hyde said he does not expect the council to try to override the veto.

Horton wanted to build 1,200 condominiums, 200 houses, 150,000 square feet of general office space and 60,000 square feet of retail on the north side of Baymeadows Road, to the east of Interstate 95. The golf course is zoned for such development.

However, traffic congestion on Baymeadows Road is severe enough that it's considered a failing road by the city's transportation planning division. Under those circumstances, the city refuses to approve a development unless the developer successfully applies for a fair share contract.

Horton's fair share contract would have built turn lanes, closed median openings, and realigned an intersection on Baymeadows Road. The total value of Horton's contribution would have been $7.1 million, including the donation of 5 acres of land at $1.75 million for a future Jacksonville Transportation Authority transit station. Under the fair share program, Horton's requirement was for $4.9 million of work.

Hundreds of residents living in communities along the golf course rallied in opposition to the fair share contract. They said the city shouldn't approve more development along Baymeadows Road until current traffic woes are fixed by expanding the four-lane road to six lanes.

"The citizens of Jacksonville just think the developers have run amok and are making the most absurd things a reality," said Dan Becton, who helped organize opposition from residents. He said Tuesday Peyton made a "fantastic decision."

In another growth-management matter, Peyton also vetoed a plan to change the city comprehensive plan to allow residential development on about 376 acres that is now designated for light industrial use. The land is along Dunns Creek north of Heckscher Drive.

The council had voted 12-7 in favor of the change. Peyton said he supports residential housing on the Northside, but he said "high-wage and manufacturing jobs are critical to our diversified employment base, and I cannot support a development that is incompatible with those jobs."

Peyton also announced Tuesday that he will appoint a committee to review growth issues that may affect Jacksonville's quality of life. He said the group will begin its work in March and update recommendations made by a growth management task force in 1997. The mayor's committee will work with a special City Council committee that is evaluating the city's criteria for allowing new development on traffic-heavy roads, Peyton said.

Times-Union writer Matt Galnor contributed to this report.

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I have mixed feelings about this one. I'm no advocate for sprawl, but this seemed to be decent infill, that would provide affordable housing to the young professionals in that area and the land was already zoned for this use. Yes, the area is already overcrowed, but I rather see 1,400 affordable (+125K townhomes) go there, then paving over forested land in St. Johns or Clay County to do the same.

I also don't buy the argument of someone who recently moved to that area, talking about the traffic is too bad and the schools are too overcrowded. Hello, McFly! you and your kids are a part of that problem. At least D.R. Horton was willing to donate land for a future transit center and almost $5 million for road improvements. That's much more than anyone else, including the local residents, the city, and DOT are willing to spend to improve Baymeadows.

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I pretty much agree with what's been said.

1) The design of the community was probably going to be sprawly and terrible, so I'm not terribly upset per se to see it axed.

2) However, I am horrified of the precedent this sets. After all, the plan was killed because it was TOO DENSE, not because it had bad design, or it wasn't dense enough.

It's not like baymeadows road is the hinterlands anymore. Frankly, in 30 years, it might become close to being the geographic center of town!!!

I know this seems like a crazy notion to all those NIMBY's out there, but at this rate, duval county will actually FILL UP within our lifetimes. If the city is going to have a financial future, it will need to allow denser development eventually. 700 square miles of RLD-1 and RR zoning will not sustain a tax base.

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I completely agree about the precedent thing - he gained a few votes from the southside in exchange for it, but what does that show about Peyton? The law really doesn't matter, it's just what Peyton is in the mood to do.

I'd really laugh if in a few years we have a Wal-Mart there (Not really likely).

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