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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Apr. 8, 202010:40 AM EST

Property owners of The Trails seek a revised land-use amendment 

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The city sponsored the application to correct nonconforming land uses in Southwest Jacksonville.
by: Scott Sailer Staff Writer

The Trails landowners propose a less dense development in Southwest Jacksonville that may address concerns of neighbors.  

Originally, the landowners sought a large-scale land use amendment to allow up to 5,000 single-family homes and 225,100 square feet of commercial space on about 2,000 acres.

The property generally is between Normandy Boulevard and the Clay County line and between Solomon and Maxville-Middleburg roads.

The primary landowners are Diamond Timber Investments, Timber Forest Trail Investments, VCP-Real Estate Investments Ltd. and Longleaf Timber Co. Inc. 

The land use amendment application requests a land use designation change for 2,167.51 acres.

Steve Diebenow, a real estate, land use, zoning and government law attorney, said April 7 the city sponsored the application to “clean up all of the land uses throughout the region” to include private homeowners who have land uses that do not conform with the actual use.

 “The city sent out notices to all the property owners affected,” he said.

Diebenow, who represents The Trails landowners, said the city included property in a mitigation bank north of Normandy Boulevard to correct the land use to conservation. 

After receiving resident opposition to The Trails project in the rural neighborhood, the property owners asked to withdraw the application to amend the land use designations from rural residential, agriculture II, agriculture III, agriculture IV and light industrial to low density residential, community/general commercial and agriculture-IV.

City Council granted the withdrawal request for Ordinance 2019-0309 on Oct. 8.

Diebenow said at the time The Trails landowners planned to refile to amend the land use.

The predominant land use of The Trails will be rural residential with a “couple of tiny pieces of commercial,” said Diebenow, a partner with the Driver, McAfee, Hawthorne & Diebenow firm. 

There also will be a “significant piece of property changed to conservation land,” he said.

“We have resubmitted in accordance with conversations that we had with several of the neighbors,” Diebenow said April 7.

He anticipates the bill will be introduced to Council in May.

The owners submitted the revised land use amendment application March 10, with the major change from the requested low density residential to rural residential and include conservation.

 The current land use breakdown of the property is:

• Rural residential: 35.81 acres

• Agriculture II: 110 acres

• Agriculture III: 1,776.65 acres

• Agriculture IV: 228.27 acres

• Light industrial: 16.78

The requested land use breakdown of the property is:

• Community/general commercial: 22.9 acres

• Rural residential: 1,284.08 acres

• Agriculture IV: 41.07 acres

• Conservation: 819.46 acres

The rural residential land use category is intended to provide rural estate residential in the suburban and rural areas of the city with single-family detached housing as the predominant use. 

Rural residential provides a lower density of residential use, which means fewer homes will be sought due to larger lot requirements than previously requested.

Diebenow said in October the ordinance withdrawal was a good move.

“That’s why we talk to the neighbors and work with the councilman to figure out the best way to plan for the future. It’s a collaborative process,” he said.

Council member Randy White represents the community in District 12.

At a May 20 Citizen Informational Meeting with Jacksonville Planning and Development Department staff, rural Southwest Jacksonville residents explained why they opposed the project.

“We are not ready for this at all,” said Forest Trail Road resident Jess Knauf, referring to how the development could affect flooding and wildlife.

“You’re all fixing to destroy a beautiful area of Westside,” said Douglas Wilson, a resident along Normandy Boulevard.

The neighbors also questioned the residential density of the project, road capacity, safety and the potential for crime.

The current plans aren’t the first time the project has been discussed. The city enacted an ordinance in 2004 to rezone most of the property for The Trails Rural Village.

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