ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – Vilano Beach residents were triumphant in their fight against a hotel proposed for the beach. On Tuesday, the St. Johns County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted down the hotel, 4-0.
The planned 194-room hotel would have been built near A1A and Vilano Road, but residents showed up in large numbers to voice concerns about building what would be the largest hotel in the area.
There were multiple concerns raised including the planned acreage was incorrect and the county had made mistakes in the application process.
There were also concerns raised over traffic in the area.
“To get to Vilano there’s a two-lane bridge to get there. My concern is not living too far from the area is that you know, flooding, natural disasters, hurricanes, it would be a mess to have as many hotel rooms as these additional rooms would make,” said resident John Pilecki.
Commissioner Henry Dean was the first commissioner to express skepticism over the size of the hotel and proposed allowing a hotel if it was only 120 rooms which would be the equivalent of the largest hotel already at the beach. But the attorney and architect for the developer, Key International, said that wouldn’t work for their plans.
They said they would only be willing to drop the room total in a scaled-back proposal from 194 rooms to 174 rooms. But Commissioners didn’t seem to think that was enough and right before the vote, the developer made one final pitch for a hotel that would be only 150 rooms, but commissioners still voted down the proposal.
The process, however, is likely not over.
Following the vote, the developer expressed interest in either re-applying for a building permit or appealing the commission’s decision. The county is also considering whether to waive the usual one-year requirement before an application can be re-submitted.
But for now, residents feel triumphant.
“Well, I’m not against development, I think the particular area they’re looking at, something can be done there. But just the scope and scale of what they’re trying to do is way too big for Vilano,” said resident Gayla Poythress.