A tale of two counties

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  • | 12:00 p.m. March 14, 2006
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by Miranda G. McLeod

Staff Writer

The Davis Family, founders of Winn-Dixie supermarkets, have put their land, time and efforts into a massive undertaking to ensure the legacy of the family name. Nocatee, a 14,000 acre mixed-use development slated for Duval and St. Johns counties, will break ground for residential housing this year. Four housing developments will begin pre-selling homes in the late spring or early summer and closings are expected to begin early next year.

But housing doesn’t scratch the surface of the proposed Nocatee development.

Nocatee will become its own town, with its own zip code, and will take 25 years to be considered at “full build-out.” It will include the following: 10,000 single-family dwellings; 4,900 multi-family homes; one million square feet of retail and commercial space; 250,000 square feet of light industrial space; 4.2 million square feet of office space, and more than 300 acres of community and neighborhood parks. Also, nearly 9,000 acres of land will be placed into some form of preservation; 8,000 of that as wetland and wildlife corridors.

Because Nocatee straddles two counties (about 15 percent of the community is in Duval), two community development districts — which are special purpose local governments that are created and governed by Florida statutes — have been established.

The Tolomato and Split Pine Community Development Districts, which encompass all of Nocatee, were approved by the Florida Land & Water Adjudicatory Commission in July 2004.

Florida law governs the process of elections for the CDD boards. Each district is governed by a five member board of supervisors elected initially by district landowners. The real estate development arm of the Davis family’s holding company is Jacksonville-based PARC Group, Inc. Two of the three partners will head the initial CDDs of Nocatee.

The Tolomato CDD is the St. Johns County portion of Nocatee’s governing board. PARC Group partner Richard T. Ray is the chairman of the Tolomato district. Other members include: Davis family member Jed Davis; Richard O’Steen, executive vice president of the PARC Group; Austin Barbour, Greg Barbour’s father and retired businessman Steven Grossman.

The Split Pine CDD is in Duval County and Greg Barbour, partner at the PARC Group, is the chairman. Other members of the CDD include George Ray, Richard Ray’s father; Arden Tomczak, a PARC Group employee; and John Hewins, general manager of Marsh Creek Country Club, a PARC development in St. Augustine.

Together, the two CDDs encompass the entire Nocatee project. Florida law prevents one district from overlapping county boundaries.

In the future, supervisors will be elected by the district’s qualified electors — residents of the district and the State of Florida who are registered to vote in the district.

To ensure the legacy and provide a show of good faith on the part of Nocatee and the Davis family, three-and-a-half miles of land on the Intracoastal Waterway has been donated to St. Johns County for preservation. But it doesn’t stop there.

Ray said it’s not just wetlands that are designated for preservation, it’s uplands too. The Nocatee Greenway, part of the preservation, will provide a wildlife habitat and corridors as well as an extensive system of nature walking and biking trails. Ultimately, 5,500 of uplands and 2,400 acres of wetlands will be set aside for preservation. That’s nearly 57 percent of the land in Nocatee that will never be built upon, said Ray.

This extensive tract of land and master development requires a unique land owner, said Ray, and the Davis’ are just that.

“It requires patience, commitment, time and capital. It has taken us eight years to get this far,” he said. “This is a comprehensive project that has been master planned. It was the Davis family’s thought that instead of selling the land piecemeal, they would leave behind a legacy and embark on the master plan to create a sustainable community — one where families can live, work and play.”

Further contributions to the community and Northeast Florida include nearly $150 million in regional roadway improvements. Nocatee Parkway is a planned four-lane limited access roadway from the Intracoastal Bridge to U.S. 1 and replaces the two-lane County Road 210. That project started earlier this year.

Part of the original interchange was redrafted to accommodate the placement of one of Nocatee’s Town Center Villages, the retail and commercial components of the development. The road will also serve as a hurricane evacuation route.

Nocatee has reserved land for up to nine public schools — one high school, two middle schools and six elementary schools. The land within the community will be donated to the school district at no cost. The developers have also committed to provide land to the Diocese of St. Augustine for a Catholic high school and parish center. The summary of the development prepared by the PARC Group also says that Nocatee will not request impact fee credits for the donated public school sites which will allow the school district to use those dollars for school construction and operation. Most residential villages will have their own neighborhood elementary school located within walking or bicycling distance of all homes, according to the summary.

Two of the schools within the nine set-aside sites are also intended as shelters during hurricanes or other such natural disasters, according to Ray, with the subsequent building costs funded by the development.

Public facilities within the community include donated land for two fire stations, two (St. Johns County) sheriff stations, one library and one (St. Johns) county annex.

The Nocatee plan is based on the planning principles of smart growth and sustainability, according to the PARC Group’s summary of the town. “Nocatee’s commercial and high-end residential component will provide St. Johns County with a significant reoccurring tax base. Nocatee’s plan represents the responsible planning and management of the growth that will come to this area over the next 25 years.”



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