Mandarin development debate sent back to zoning committee

Some residents oppose proposed 21-home development on County Dock Road

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The debate over a proposed development in south Mandarin will be heading back to the Jacksonville City Council's Land Use and Zoning Committee. 

During Tuesday evening's meeting, the full City Council was expected to vote on a rezoning motion -- which would allow a proposed 21-home development on 9.5 acres off County Dock Road near Loretto and Mandarin roads, just south of Interstate 295, to move forward. 

But there was no final vote, and the motion was rereferred to the Landing Use and Zoning Committee, which voted 6-1 last week to approve the proposed development -- despite the Planning Commission's vote against it and overwhelming opposition from area residents. 

Several neighbors have publicly expressed their opposition to the project, and many packed City Hall for Tuesday's meeting.

The City Council members said they've been bombarded with phone calls and emails from people concerned the development project. Sending the motion back to the Landing Use and Zoning Committee will allow for public comments.

There was also confusion over amendments to the motion, specifically one that calls for a traffic study to see whether County Dock Road should become a one-way thoroughfare, which is another reason why the council agreed to hold off on the vote.

"I think it was the right decision to send it back to the Land Use and Zoning Committee. From the debate that was going on, there was a lot of confusion about what amendments did, what the people in the community want and there was no way for the community to have that input tonight," said Tracey Arpin, a Mandarin resident.

The area in Mandarin is currently zoned for one house per acre. Residents who oppose the plan are concerned that additional development will increase traffic in the neighborhood -- creating a safety concern. 

"I think it's good that it will go back to the Land Use and Zoning Committee. At least the public will have an opportunity to be heard again," said McGlade Holloway, a Mandarin resident. "The council person for our area called for two public hearings. There were 360 people there and not one single person was in favor of this."

Before the meeting, people who live in the south Mandarin area told News4Jax that not only would the proposed development increase traffic along County Dock Road, it would take away from the historic feel of the neighborhood. 

"They would end up with lot lines of 5 feet between 4,000-square-foot houses and 10-foot backyards," said Rosalind Sandell, who opposes the proposed development. "It would decimate those 9 acres."

One option on the table is turning it into a one-way road.

"Traffic is like water. It's going to take the path of least resistance," said Jeff Edwards, who opposes the development proposal.

Edwards said to get around it, people would either make reverse-angle turns to get back onto County Dock Road or they would cut through the Ramsgate subdivision to get back onto Mandarin Road.

City Councilman Matt Schellenberg, who represents the area, supports the one-way road option.

"All of a sudden, it's taken on a life of its own," Schellenberg said. "I believe safety trumps convenience."

Schellenberg said he understands some of the concerns, but added that the development is what the area needs.

"You're telling me 12 additional houses on County Dock are going to make the difference between the destruction of Mandarin," Schellenberg said.

Not every neighbor in this area is against the development. Schellenberg said he has heard from many who are in favor.

News4Jax was told it may be another three weeks before the motions goes before the Land Use and Zoning Committee again. 

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