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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, May 21, 201912:33 PM EST

Southwest Jacksonville residents speak out against proposed 5,000-home Trails development

Residential density of the project, road capacity and safety, and the potential for crime questioned.

Rural Southwest Jacksonville residents concerned about the proposed Trails development that could bring 5,000 homes to the area told city staff Monday why they opposed the project.

“Why did I decide on this land? It's in the country,” said property owner Cheryl Gildner, the first of several speakers at the Citizen Informational Meeting at the Ed Ball Building Downtown.

Gildner said she looked at several locations before buying in Jacksonville. Property records show she bought about 10 acres in September on Diamond Ranch Lane.

No votes were taken at the informational meeting, where Jacksonville Planning and Development Department staff listened to neighbors before writing a staff report. The report is due May 31.

Almost 40 people attended the meeting about the Trails development.

“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.

A Facebook page for Citizens for Rural West Normandy & Maxville Areas is following the project. The closed group had 292 members as of Tuesday morning.

Almost 40 people attended the meeting, although a few were there for another project. Eight filled out speaker cards to register their views and several more came to a podium later to do the same.

They also said they questioned the residential density of the project, road capacity and safety, and the potential for crime.

City Ordinance 2019-309 proposes to change the land-use designations of the almost 2,000 vacant acres south of Normandy Boulevard and north of the Clay County line, between Maxville-Middleburg and Solomon roads.

Owners are listed as Diamond Timber Investments LLC, Timber Forest Trail Investments LLC, VCP-Real Estate Investments Ltd., and Duane and Kameron Hodges.

Landowners propose to make the property available for up to 5,000 single-family homes and 225,100 square feet of commercial space.

The project is called The Trails and is expected to take 20 years to develop.

Owners seek to change the land uses from rural residential, agricultural and light industrial uses to primarily low density residential and community general commercial uses.

The city enacted an ordinance in 2004 to rezone most of the property for The Trails Rural Village.

Property representative Steve Diebenow, a partner with Driver, McAfee, Hawthorne & Diebenow, explained the process for the Trails development.

Property representative Steve Diebenow, a partner with the Driver, McAfee, Hawthorne & Diebenow law firm, explained the process and provided attendees with his phone number and email if they have questions.

The city reports that public hearings about the ordinance are scheduled June 6 at the Jacksonville Planning Commission, June 11 at City Council, June 18 at the council Land Use & Zoning Committee and June 25 again at council.

If the land-use change ordinance is approved, it is transmitted to state Department of Economic Opportunity and, if found consistent with the county's 2030 Comprehensive Plan filed with the state, will return for the next step.

At that point, a detailed plan would be submitted for rezoning and another round of public hearings and votes.

“Zoning is where it gets very detailed,” Diebenow said, such as the number of lots and sizes.

That would be expected in about four months.

Southwest Jacksonville residents who spoke against the Trails project gather after the meeting.


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