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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Jun. 12, 201905:20 AM EST

Plan would create special taxing district to fix streets, sidewalks and more in Baymeadows

Proposed Dependent Special Tax District would would be the first for a private community in Jacksonville.
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

Neighborhood leaders in Baymeadows want to create a Dependent Special Taxing District to repair the private community's stormwater, street and sidewalk infrastructure.

Jacksonville District 11 City Council Member Danny Becton, who represents the area, said Monday the Baymeadows Community Improvement District would be the first time a private community in Jacksonville used Florida's dependent special district statute for infrastructure repair.

Becton plans to introduce legislation in July that would create the DSTD, adding a line-item fee to the property taxes of Baymeadows residential and commercial property owners to pay for fixing aging roads and curbs, retention ponds and street lighting.

The special district boundaries are stretch along Baymeadows Road from Paseo Drive East to Interstate 95 on the southern edge to Baymeadows Circle West to Highway 115 in the north.

A map of the area in the proposed Baymeadws Dependent Special Taxing District.

Becton said the new money generated also would provide maintenance for the Baymeadows stormwater system that has been deferred for nearly 40 years.

The town hall meeting is scheduled 6-8 p.m. Wednesday at Florida State College at Jacksonville Deerwood Center at 9911 Old Baymeadows Road, Room B1200 and 1204.

The majority of Baymeadows residents belong to area homeowners’ associations that would be part of the DSTD and already pay HOA fees.

Becton said many of the HOAs are undercapitalized and, in some cases, are “dysfunctional” and haven't been able to pay for the needed road and stormwater improvements.

As a private community, the HOAs and neighborhoods are responsible for paying for the maintenance, he said.

“It's a private community that isn't gated. There are nine homeowners’ associations that all own a little piece of something but can't band together to make the universal investments that are ready to be made,” he said.

Florida law allows neighborhoods within cities and counties to establish DSTD for uses such as raising money to combat blight; new residential, commercial or industrial developments to finance common infrastructure; or for communities to provide emergency medical and fire services.

Becton's legislation would create a board of commissioners to manage the tax revenue and facilitate planning and implementation of the infrastructure improvements.

In Jacksonville, special dependent districts have been established by neighborhoods for projects like routine dredging of the St. Johns River for resident boaters in the Fort Caroline area.

The Baymeadows Community Council — a volunteer group of homeowners incorporated in 2004 — has been coordinating the DSTD proposal with Becton since 2017.

In 2011, the Baymeadows Community Council and the city Planning and Development Department completed the Baymeadows Community Plan addressing many of the issues.

For the past year, Becton has been meeting with Baymeadows HOAs and commercial and large-scale property owners to gain support for the proposal. He held a public meeting in January.

Wednesday will be the final public meeting before Becton introduces his bill to City Council.

If approved, Becton hopes the Baymeadows DSTS could be a model for other Jacksonville neighborhoods.

Baymeadows was developed in the late 1960s and 70s by the Fletcher Brothers Co. to include a 170-acre golf course. Surrounding parcels were sold to other developers for multifamily housing, office and retail service.

According to the Baymeadows Community Council, the neighborhood was developed piecemeal without a master plan and with no uniform design standard for sidewalk, lighting curbs and drainage.

The stormwater management system, ponds, lakes and drainage structures, online BCC documents say, were built before permitting requirements from the city.

The DSTD has the support of Dallas-based developer D.R. Horton Homes, Becton said, which is developing 88 single-family homes and 200 townhomes between Baymeadows Circle West and Baymeadows Circle East. The company owns 113 acres at the former Baymeadows Golf Course.

D.R. Horton did not respond to emailed questions by late Tuesday, but Becton said the company agreed to enter all 547 homes it is building in the area into the DSTD, increasing the property tax pool.

Becton and Baymeadows Community Council volunteers said establishing the taxing district will allow Baymeadows to capitalize on large-scale development projects that have been in the works since 2017.

D.R. Horton sold 5.79 acres of the former golf course in September 2018 for $2.4 million to Baymeadows Park LLC which is developing a $15 million shopping center expected to be completed in summer 2020.

In October 2018, Alunity Investments LLC sold 4.79 acres for $2.9 million to Lofts at Baymeadows LLC to develop 103 one-bedroom and studio apartments.

If approved, Becton hopes the Baymeadows DSTS could be a model for other Jacksonville neighborhoods.

“We have a lot of communities that are in disrepair, don’t have HOAs and have needs the city can’t provide,” Becton said.

“This could be a template that allows communities to have solutions in their own hand. It doesn’t require any public money. It’s residents solving problems for themselves,” he said.

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