CLAY COUNTY – Northeast Florida, particularly Clay County, are often named one of the fastest growing areas in the state, prompting Green Cove Springs City Manager Steve Kennedy and new …
CLAY COUNTY – Northeast Florida, particularly Clay County, are often named one of the fastest growing areas in the state, prompting Green Cove Springs City Manager Steve Kennedy and new Planning and Zoning Director Michael Daniels to await the challenge of 7,500 new residents.
Green Cove Springs has a major artery running through the center of the city, U.S. 17, with more than 100,000 commuters a month. Another source of commuters and potential residents is on its way: the second phase of the First Coast Expressway with an estimated completion date of 2026.
Kennedy said the biggest challenge was the city’s staffing and infrastructure to handle housing and traffic. Kennedy alluded to the city council’s numerous discussions to increase water, wastewater and electric rates, using the money to borrow and fund million-dollar infrastructure improvements citywide.
City staff needs to make sure it isn’t caught off-guard, he said.
“We need to evaluate our internal resources. Do we have enough people, enough officers, enough public works employees? We’re going to have a lot more traffic and people here,” Kennedy said. “There’s a multitude of things that need to be looked at.”
With an influx of people, you need a place to put them. Adequate homes and hotels were another area of concern. Kennedy remarked that hundreds of construction workers must reside somewhere close when the Shands Bridge is torn down and rebuilt by FDOT in a few years.
In previous city council meetings, city council members have referred to the city’s problem with housing that costs $150,000-$250,000.
“You’ve got to have a place for people to stay,” Kennedy said. “Even though a lot of houses in certain areas are being built, Green Cove needs additional affordable housing to be built.”
Daniels, 48, started with the city March 18. He held multiple planning official positions with the city of Ocala, rising to growth management director. The past two-and-a-half years Daniels has served as the Marion County Transportation Planning Organization director.
Kennedy said there wasn’t much learning curve for Daniels with the planning and zoning position, which led to the hire. Daniels said the potential for growth drew him to Green Cove. Growth that can go both ways.
“A challenge is, there is a lot of excitement in the community and they really embrace growth, but there are impacts to that growth,” Daniels said. “That’s where good planning comes in. You have to accommodate that growth.”
Green Cove’s comprehensive plan runs from 2005-2025. Daniels said part of his job was examining the plan and reviewing the city’s codes. Daniels said he was looking into additional trails and more mixed-use development for the city.
“[Trails are] something I think will make a big difference in this community, providing the opportunity for people to bike into the community, patron some of our retail areas and just to provide recreation for people,” Daniels said. “From a traffic standpoint, if you have your home in close proximity to where you work, or to where your kids play, [mixed development] makes it a lot easier and takes some of the pressure off of the vehicular traffic.”