Opponents of the apartment project could pursue further legal action despite an Aug. 10 defeat.
Developers are moving ahead with a disputed San Marco apartment community now that a Florida administrative law judge recommended in favor of the project.
Harbert Realty Services Vice President of Development Bill Ware said Aug. 11 that architectural designs for the 133-unit Park Place at San Marco will be ready for internal review in a few days and will be submitted to the city by early September.
“We had a relatively high level of confidence that (the recommendation) would come out in our favor. It wasn’t a surprise, per se, but we’re glad to have it behind us,” Ware said.
Administrative law Judge Francine Ffolkes entered the recommendation Aug. 10 after a final hearing in the complaint, which alleged the project’s proposed building height and density violate the San Marco neighborhood’s overlay provisions set in the city Land Development Code.
The issue was whether a small scale development amendment to the city’s future land use map of the city’s 2030 Comprehensive Plan adopted by Ordinance 2019-750-E on Feb. 25 is “in compliance” as defined by state law.
San Marco-based Corner Lot Development Group, led by Andy Allen, and Birmingham, Alabama-based Harbert Realty want to develop the 2.87-acre project at 2137 Hendricks Ave. The project is proposed on a section of South Jacksonville Presbyterian Church property.
The development would use 2.09 acres of church property, leaving the main sanctuary building. A four-story, 133-unit apartment building is planned on the north side of the property and a two-story, three-level parking garage to the south.
San Marco residents Jonathan Livingston and Lakshmi Gopal and Right Size San Marco requested the administrative hearing to challenge the city’s adoption of the ordinance.
The judge’s recommendation will be sent to the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings for a final review, which Ware said he expects soon.
The city is reviewing civil engineering plans, which the development group submitted in July.
Ware said the project is on track to break ground in the fourth quarter. However, the development timeline could be delayed by additional legal challenges from Right Size San Marco, Livingston and Gopal.
The plaintiffs have 15 days to file an exception to the judge’s recommended order with the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings. If they continue their challenge, attorneys for the developers will have 10 days to respond.
Livingston did not respond to email and voice message requests for comments Aug. 10 and 11, but the San Marco residents and advocacy group have another challenge pending in the 4th Judicial Circuit Court in Duval County.
Right Size San Marco filed a writ of certiorari March 26 challenging the city’s rezoning of the property to a planned unit development. A writ of certiorari orders a lower court to deliver its record in a case so that the higher court may review it, according to the Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute.
That proceeding was on hold until the appeal’s final decision, according to a Right Size San Marco Facebook post May 20.
“I guess we’ll see if the petitioner is of the mindset to pursue that or, with the overwhelming response from this order, if it’s prudent,” Ware said.
Allen said in a text message Aug. 11 that apartment leasing will begin within 13 months of groundbreaking.
“We are happy to be closer to groundbreaking for this much-needed project in San Marco,” Allen said. “Restaurant and business owners have reached out to me weekly, excited to hear of this long-awaited news.”