JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In a 9-8 vote, the Jacksonville City Council on Tuesday voted in favor of the establishment of a special taxing district, called the “Baymeadows Community Improvement District,” for residential areas around what used to be the Baymeadows Golf Club.
The golf course has been shut down since the early 2000s, and developers recently purchased it -- building new townhomes and a shopping center.
As first reported by the Florida Times-Union, those for the district say everyone will benefit long term from improvements in the aging streets and drainage, but opponents say residents in some older areas haven’t done what they should to maintain their roads in their neighborhoods.
Notably, Councilman Danny Becton, who has been a proponent for creating the district, abstained from the vote Tuesday.
A description of the BCID is listed on Becton’s website. It reads in part:
“The BCID is a plan to address the needs for publicly used assets and infrastructure that are failing or in need of maintenance and enhancement due to age and decline within the areas covered by the specific geographic boundary of the BCID. Publicly-used infrastructure would include roads, stormwater and drainage systems and selective common properties.”
As written on the councilman’s website, the BCID would provide for the creation of a local representative government body, and its board of seven commissioners would be elected by community membership.
“The HOAs are not able to handle the complexities of these outdated infrastructure needs and with extremely poor coordination between these bodies, improving and enhancing roadways, fixing and improving drainage and storm water systems and other common assets become irresolvable as a result of these items being divided among multiple parties,” Becton says in a quote on his website. “The neighborhood has to have an overriding authority to tackle these overlapping issues and the BCID in its governance as a special taxing district can provide that structure.”
Supporters and opponents were both in attendance for public comment before the vote Tuesday night.
Anthony Maria, a Baymeadows resident, was opposed.
“The additional taxes that will be imposed will cause a personal hardship to many of our residents and a burden to our community as a whole. Our residents have trusted and supported you (council), but we truly feel you may be taking what seems to be an easy solution to exaggerated problems in Baymeadows,” Maria said.
Maria said not enough attention has been given to public feedback.
“Since we have not had time to explain our concerns through a lack of town hall meetings, and very limited time to speak at council meetings, I ask that you please vote no on this ordinance or very least let us have respect by tabling the problem for a few months so we can have townhall meetings which were a proper dialogue can occur.”
Laura Laceman, a Baymeadows resident, believes the tax proposal fee structure is unfair.
“We simply cannot afford the extra financial burden to pay for reserves, which only are needed because of the many new projects, which are of no benefit to Lakeside (at Baymeadows),” she told the council.
Carol Ikling told the council she’s behind the proposal, with a long-term goal.
“The idea behind the greater good is that you pass laws, regulations and other items that allow you to create benefit for all. It may not be something that somebody does benefit all at the same time but somebody will benefit, and all will benefit from it at some point in time. That’s what the BCID is created to do,” she said.
Cliff Johnson, another Baymeadows resident, is also in support of the district.
“Our shared infrastructure has been poorly maintained due to multiple private ownerships,” Johnson said. “With the creation of the BCID, we can bring the repair, maintenance and management of these shared infrastructure systems under a single community-guided entity.”
As noted in the Times Union’s report, the district’s board could levy annual assessments up to $500 for single-family homes, up to $400 for a townhome and up to $20 per unit of an apartment complex. For commercial properties, the max assessments would range from $500 to $2,500.