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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Oct. 31, 201905:10 AM EST

The Sailer Report: Plans for The Trails now rural residential

Property owners had sought a land-use amendment to allow up to 5,000 homes, but ran into neighborhood opposition.
by: Scott Sailer Staff Writer

Southwest Jacksonville property owners of 1,915.12 acres known as The Trails withdrew their proposed large scale land-use amendment.

The project was opposed by a growing number of residents in the rural neighborhood.

The Trails landowners Diamond Timber Investments, Timber Forest Trail Investments, VCP-Real Estate Investments Ltd., Kameron L. Hodges and Duane Hodges sought the amendment to allow up to 5,000 single-family homes and 225,100 square feet of commercial space.

The group proposed to change 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.

It withdrew the amendment request at the Oct. 8 meeting of City Council, which was considering the project as Ordinance 2019-309.

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

Steve Diebenow, a real estate, land use, zoning and government law attorney representing The Trails property owners, said they plan to refile to amend the land use “to rural residential in the next 30 days or so.”

The predominant land use 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 is going to be a “significant piece of property changed to conservation land on the other side of the street north of Normandy,” he said.

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 the withdrawal of the ordinance 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.

“Planning is not a one-sided conversation, its a dialogue.”

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 began to explain 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 said they questioned the residential density of the project, road capacity and safety, and the potential for crime.

The Stop the Trails Development public Facebook group had 717 members as of Wednesday afternoon.

The Trails is expected to take 20 years to develop.

The Trails’ 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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