Letter: We turned Turnbull PUD down?
St Augustine, FL
After the amount of lip service that the Saint Johns County Government has given to trying to appear “open for business”, the concept seems lost when it comes time to vote.
On Tuesday, the Saint Johns County Commission voted 4 to 1 to deny the Turnbull PUD.
The Turnbull PUD would have brought 112,000 square feet of commercial space to State Road 16 approximately two miles north of Interstate 95. This commercial space could have included a grocery store, banks, restaurants, beauty shops, and other businesses that would have added to the much-needed commercial tax base of Saint Johns County.
However, the media focus seems to only include the approximately 600 residential units and ignores the commercial benefit to the county.
To begin, according to the Saint Johns Chamber of Commerce, 10-13% of the tax revenue in Saint Johns County comes from commercial sources. This figure, in relation to other surrounding communities, is extremely low. An ideal range for our county would be a commercial tax base of 25-30%.
To add insult to injury, Saint Johns County Citizens spend a great deal of their money in surrounding counties, such as Duval County. This further takes away from the sales tax revenue of Saint Johns County.
Last budget year, the County Commission voted to raise the millage rate to overcome a budget shortfall of approximately $12,000,000. This shortfall could be significantly reduced if the commercial tax base was increased. The Turnbull project would be a great example of Saint Johns County turning away willing development.
Some have argued residential development is not needed because it would create more problems. However, it must be noted that a community, such as Turnbull, that has both commercial and residential amenities, would actually reduce trips on our roadways because it would keep residents closer to their homes for shopping, dining, and possibly work.
Further, I believe that the free market should dictate where an investor invests their money and the County Commission should simply oversee the process by listening to the recommendation of the county Planning and Zoning Agency which voted to approve this project at their November 17th meeting.
Instead, the County Commission seems to want to dictate how and where in our community investors invest their money.
It is a fact that actions speak louder than words. Unfortunately, by turning down this project, the County Commission has sent a message to people considering proposing commercial development in Saint Johns County that we are closed for business.
Why would a company invest over $100,000 to propose a project in Saint Johns County when they can go to a neighboring county and receive more hospitable treatment, a more streamlined process, and better return on their investment?
The process in Saint Johns County must be fixed. As your County Commissioner, I would propose a fair process for approval of commercial development, welcome projects to our county, and, finally, stay out of the way of businesses and entrepreneurs that want to make Saint Johns County their home.
Photo credits: © 2012 Historic City News staff photographer