GREEN COVE SPRINGS – In a joint workshop of the Clay County Board of County Commissioners and the Clay County Planning Commission, board members heard a staff report from the county’s planning …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – In a joint workshop of the Clay County Board of County Commissioners and the Clay County Planning Commission, board members heard a staff report from the county’s planning department on the current status of the 2040 Comprehensive Plan.
The county’s comprehensive plan is reevaluated every seven years to make any necessary changes as required by state law. The evaluation also gives staff a chance to see what worked and what didn’t work, to allow extended deadlines for some projects, and to discuss things that might need fixing. The updated plan is only a draft at this point, but will soon move into its final stages as the October 1 deadline for submittal to the state looms.
Ed Lehman, the county’s planning and zoning director, spoke to the boards first. He started by stating that the county is in a good place to support any future population growth. According to Lehman, there will be enough housing to support the county’s population into 2040, which is expected to reach about 300,000 by that year.
County Commission Chair Wayne Bolla asked for clarification as to whether or not we currently have enough housing to support the increase in population expected by 2040.
“Not the current number,” Lehman said. “This is based on the amount [of dwellings] that could be built based on land uses that have been approved.”
In an effort to keep the meeting brief, presenters cycled out relatively quickly, providing information only on what would change, and allowing time for brief discussion at the end of the presentation of each of the 13 elements in the plan.
Planner Tony Robbins of Prosser Inc. in Jacksonville stepped up to the podium after Lehman’s presentation. Robbins discussed some of the housing issues that will be addressed in the updated plan, first and foremost creating a unified definition for affordable housing.
Robbins also discussed the topic of economic development, something that Clay County Economic Development Corp. President Bill Garrison worked on with staff.
Among the suggestions from Garrison were ideas to zone the land around major interchanges along the future First Coast Expressway in an effort to target specific businesses to those areas that could provide jobs and economic growth for the county.
“The ideal element is to ensure that, whatever industry, whether it be restaurants or shopping, that they do have subsidiaries that want to come along, and competitors that will come along and have that ripple effect,” Robbins said.
Garrison’s suggestions also included creating a space in Clay County that would be welcoming to young entrepreneurs, giving them a destination that would encourage them to move here, and work in-county, instead of adding to the 60 percent of residents who drive out of Clay County every morning for a job.
Shaun Fountain, a colleague of Robbins’ at Prosser, spoke about parks and conservation in the county. Fountain mentioned the need for new recreation facilities in Clay County, something that will be included as part of the parks master plan.
“We’re deficient in a number of areas,” Commissioner Mike Cella said.
Cella went on the suggest a closer look into the parks budget, and abandoning the idea of placing numerous pocket parks throughout cities and towns while saving up for something that would actually add value to the county-wide parks system.
At the end of the discussion, the county’s Chief Planner Carolyn Morgan ran through brief updates to the Branan Field and Lake Asbury Master Plans, which are both areas that expect to receive the majority of the population growth between now and 2040 as the beltway moves through the county and these two villages grow around the highway.
Following Tuesday’s workshop staff will continue to work on the master plan, taking into account some suggestions from members of the Planning Commission and County Commission. The plan will eventually be finalized and presented to both boards for voting.