Application withdrawn for proposed Vilano Beach luxury resort

Proposed beach club sparks debate among developers, residents

VILANO BEACH, Fla. – The application for a proposed luxury resort and beach club in Vilano Beach has been withdrawn, St. Johns County spokesperson Michael Ryan said Tuesday evening. 

Most likely, Ryan said, the project will be resubmitted in a different form in the future. 

The withdrawal came at the end of St. Johns County Commission meeting that began at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. 

Developers had asked St. Johns County leaders to allow them to build a complex, called "The Watermarke," with up to 50 beach villas and 120 hotel rooms, as well as a marina. Developers said the resort would boost the economy and be a nice addition to the community. 

But some residents of the coast community asked the county not to rezone the land for reconstruction. They said the big business would be a bad idea. 

People who live and work in Vilano Beach took to the podium to tell county leaders that they don't want a resort in their small beach town and wore white to show their opposition. 

"I'm just trying to protect what little there is left of a small town, beach community in Florida," said Cindy Rockafellow, a Vilano Beach resident. 

Developers, who wanted to build the resort on a 43-acre strip of land off A1A, about a mile north of the Usina Bridge to St. Augustine, said it would boost the economy, bring in tourists and create jobs.

But before the property can be developed, the county would have to give approval to rezone the land. 

"We submitted the amendment application that's pending before you today about seven months ago," said Ellen Avery-Smith, an attorney for developers, before the application was withdrawn. 

Residents said they feared that the resort would create traffic and safety issues and hurt small businesses. They even started a group called "Save Our Vilano" to fight the plans. 

"It's a beautiful project. This isn't the right place for it. This sticks a huge commercial activity in the heart of one of the residential beach treasures of this state, in my opinion," said Keith Daw of Save Our Vilano. 

Some county commissioners said they were concerned the developers did not have firm enough plans for the resort and they were worried that they would sell the property if it's rezoned. 

The project wouldn't be completed until 2021.

There is no word yet when a new application would be resubmitted. 

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