By Maggie FitzRoy, Contributing Writer
Pirates livened up the scene at the Northeast Florida Builders Association Sales & Marketing Council breakfast at the University of North Florida.
Held in conjunction with the adjacent Realtor Builder Tradeshow, a few attendees showed up dressed as swashbuckling pirates — hats, swords and all — in keeping with the trade show’s “hidden treasures” theme.
The SMC meeting offered a discussion, moderated by Katrina Watkins of Glenn Layton Homes, with representatives of “hidden treasure” communities in the area:
• Kurt Morgan, sales manager of The Pineapple Corp., which is building in Jacksonville Beach
• Rick Ray, president and CEO of The PARC Group, which is developing Nocatee in St. Johns County
• Jason Sessions of Mattamy Homes with RiverTown in St. Johns County
What are the biggest challenges today in Duval and St. Johns counties with government or public issues?
Ray said it’s the time it takes to get permits and approval of plan reviews, which he blamed on too few government employees.
However, he said, “Today in St. Johns County and Duval County, we are in a very good place right now.”
Sessions said when a community is planned, then held up by governmental changes, it leads to inefficient delays.
Morgan expressed concern about the lack of skilled labor, which he said has been a challenge in the industry since the downturn.
What are the commute times from the developments?
Sessions said in conjunction with RiverTown, Mattamy is putting in new roads and that Florida 9B in Northwest St. Johns County will change the pattern of County Road 210, in ways that are yet to be known.
Compared to South Florida, however, he said, “There is no traffic in Jacksonville.”
Ray pointed out Nocatee Parkway greatly eased traffic going west in advance of Hurricane Matthew and the roadway serves the entire region.
Where are schools needed and where will they be built?
Sessions said Northwest St. Johns County will need another high school, but overall the school board there “has done a great job keeping the schools at A levels.”
Ray said since Nocatee is slated to have 30,000 residents, that will require a lot of schools and developers have donated nine school sites.
Residents pay for them with impact fees, he said, and some get frustrated that new schools are not being built faster.
That is up to the county, Ray said. “There is nothing we can do but make the land available,” he said.
What about retail offerings?
Ray said a substantial amount of retail is coming online in Nocatee.
Since there is a long lead time involved due to the governmental approval process, he said developers have cleared land across from Publix Super Markets to shorten that time.
Nocatee developers recently held a town hall meeting with residents to talk about restaurants, of which residents want more.
Ray said restaurants “will come when they are ready to come,” when they think they can be successful, based on the population in the area.
That is growing quickly, he added, “Because we are building about 100 homes a month.”
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