Frequently Asked Questions about the Park Place at San Marco Project
Is Right Size San Marco (RSSM) against this project?
From day one, we have been against the land-use change as well as the height going over 35 feet. While many like to throw around the NIBMY term (not in my back yard), we were never against having apartments or a parking garage on the property. We are entirely for smart development that follows the rules set in place. This project is not one of them as it currently stands.
Did RSSM try to resolve the height issues with the developer?
In our first meeting with the developer, their lead engineer said Harbert would not budge on the height or the density. "Everything else" was on the table, like traffic calming and landscaping. Seems they didn't get our name.
They were told numerous times the 50' height of the apartments violated the San Marco Overlay. The city even told them this when they submitted their first PUD; before they concocted the "Weighted Average Height" formula.
In the end, they tried to get as much density and height as possible. We were very upfront and transparent with the applicant (church), the developer, our district councilmember LeAnna Cumber, and the City of Jacksonville. If you try to get this through, going against the laws already set by the city, we will appeal.
When is the court date and can I view the appeals?
Our first court date with the State of Florida Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) is May 28th and 29th. Winning the appeal will protect the San Marco Overlay by making this developer, and future developers, follow the 35' standard set by the Overlay. While the DOAH document is technical, you can read it here.
I don't live in the San Marco Overlay. Why should I care?
This ruling could affect everyone in Jacksonville. The Planning Department set a precedent allowing the developer to come up with their way to define the height. Instead of measurement, they let the developer create a formula that deviated from the zoning requirements to maximize short-term gains - an additional story and more units to rent and/or sell.
It also directly went against the height-limit the San Marco Overlay put in place. Some developers are keeping a close eye on this. Could they use this in their next project? A ruling in our favor will put an end to having developers tell City Council that they have already done this for other properties.
What does the San Marco Overlay say about this?
Ordinance 2016-372-E states the following: Any proposed or amended existing planned unit development within the San Marco Overlay zone is prohibited from waiving or altering any standard or requirement set out in the San Marco Overlay Zone Subpart.
Sec 656.340 says: It is not the intent to utilize the Planned Unit Development district solely to diminish the usual application of the provisions of the Zoning Code. Further, a Planned Unit Development, or any amendment of an existing or future Planned Unit Development, shall not be allowed to authorize the relaxation of any standards set out in the San Marco Overlay Zone Subpart.
Sec. 656.399.4 says: No new Planned Unit Development zoning district shall be allowed that does not conform to the requirements of 656.399.7.
It goes on and on so we won't bore you with the details for now. We will be sharing the appeals in the future, but for now it's easy to get the point. The City of Jacksonville planning department went out of their way for this developer to get what they wanted.
Why did Right Size San Marco file appeals instead of the San Marco Preservation Society?
While the San Marco Preservation Society board voted against the "weighted average height," as well as the land-use change to increase density, they are not interested in allocating resources or challenging the ruling. Because of this, Right Size San Marco had to step up to preserve and protect San Marco. The community will not allow developers to dilute and ignore the San Marco Overlay, a document that was explicitly designed to stop oversized developments like this from happening.
What about all that extra public parking for the Square?
It's smoke and mirrors from our perspective. While it was a great selling tool to merchants and the public for support, the shared parking with the church isn't that much of a give like promised. Deviations were made so that one bedroom and two bedroom apartments would only allow 1.2 parking spaces! City code requires 2 spaces for two bedrooms and 1.7 for one bedrooms. If the apartments are full, renters wouldn't even have space to park in the garage during church hours. If they parked in church spots the developer said they would be towed. Cars will be parking throughout the neighborhood due to the lack of parking.
If the church happened to sell the rest of their property, the new owners of the property would receive the entire bottom floor and public access would be completely removed.
Did anyone vote in favor of the San Marco Overlay during this whole process?
Representatives from RSSM meet with numerous councilmembers before the vote and the majority expressed their concern for the precedent the weighted average height created.
During the final city council vote, one councilmember said the following:
"I’m going to support it. I’m going to support my fellow councilwoman, but that doesn’t mean I would support it in my district,” ... “So, I just want to make sure my district understands that."
Unfortunately only one councilmember stood up for the community and the San Marco Overlay. Kudos to councilmember Matt Carlucci! Thank you!
What's going to happen to the church?
That's been a common question for many months. Some say for multiple years. What we do know is that the church leadership has explicitly stated during this process they need to build a sustainable church. You can take that however you want.
Does the appeals stop development?
RSSM filed an appeal to the Department of Administrative Hearings in Tallahassee that will stop all permitting and construction.
How long will it take before the appeals are ruled on?
From our estimate, it's going to be at least nine months, maybe a lot more. Currently, we know of two appeals in the city, and one is presently without a verdict at a year and a half, and another is on year four. This doesn't even take into account the delays Covid-19 will have on our court system.
Our goal is to preserve and protect the San Marco Overlay. If it takes years to do that, we have the time to wait.
If I donate, where will the money go?
All donations will go directly to attorney fees and items directly related to the appeals. For example, we have paid for attorney representation and their creation of appeals, an expert witness, court reporters and transcripts.
Can I provide a check instead of paying online?
Definitely! Please feel free to either mail or drop off a check to 1535 Alexandria Place North, 32207. Checks can be made out to "Right Size San Marco". Thank you for your support! Having the community come together is sending a powerful message for future City Council votes.
What can I do to help with this cause?
Now that the appeals have been submitted, please continue to spread the word about the financial need. This is a community effort.
If you can give financially we would really appreciate it. To make this as easy as possible for everyone we have also set up the option of recurring gifts, if desired, for a specific duration. For example, you could donate $100 per month for three months. Once the duration ends, your card would not be charged again.