State sides with city, developer in Park Place at San Marco dispute

The Department of Economic Opportunity upheld a judge’s recommendation that the city’s action allowing the building height and density comply with city code.

Park Place at San Marco is planned for  2137 Hendricks Ave. on a section of South Jacksonville Presbyterian Church property.
Park Place at San Marco is planned for 2137 Hendricks Ave. on a section of South Jacksonville Presbyterian Church property.
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State officials have upheld an administrative law judge’s recommendation that allows the proposed Park Place at San Marco apartment community to proceed as designed. 

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity issued a final order Sept. 9 that says a comprehensive plan amendment and rezoning approved Feb. 25 by City Council, which allow the proposed building height and unit density, comply with city code and state statutes. 

The order is a setback for opponents to Park Place and the petitioner in the case, Right Size San Marco Inc.

The nonprofit, led by San Marco residents Jon Livingston and Lakshmi Gopal, argued that the method the city used to calculate the development’s height violates city code.

The city Planning and Development Department allowed project developers to use a weighted average to comply with the 35-foot maximum height restriction in the San Marco zoning overlay.

By averaging the proposed 49.5-foot-tall apartment building and 26.8-foot-tall garage, city Director of Planning and Development Bill Killingsworth told Council in February it would comply with the zoning overlay.

Council passed a small-scale land use amendment at that meeting to increase the maximum density allowed on the parcel to 133 units.

The Park Place San Marco site.
The Park Place San Marco site.

San Marco-based Corner Lot Development Group, led by Andy Allen, and Birmingham, Alabama-based Harbert Realty Services want to develop the 2.87-acre project at 2137 Hendricks Ave.

The project is proposed on a section of South Jacksonville Presbyterian Church property.

The development would carve out 2.09 acres of church property, leaving the main sanctuary building. A four-story, 133-unit apartment building is planned on the north side of the property and a two-story, three-level parking garage to the south. 

Administrative Law Judge Francine Ffolkes’s recommended order to the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings on Aug. 10 sided with the city and the developers. 

Right Size San Marco filed exceptions to the judge’s order Aug. 25, but the state ruled that Ffolkes’s original recommendation stands. 

Opponents could move forward with a writ of certiorari in the 4th Circuit Court in Jacksonville challenging the city’s rezoning of the property to a planned unit development. 

A writ of certiorari orders a lower court to deliver its record in a case so that the higher court may review it, according to the Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute.

Livingston said in May that’s an option Right Size would consider. He did not respond immediately Sept. 11 for a request for comment.

Allen said his group hopes that’s the end of the legal challenges and still intends to break ground by the end of 2020.

“We, along with the majority of the San Marco community, are happy to be one step closer to breaking ground on this marquee development,” Allen said. “For us, it’s just nice to see the state favored on our side and saw the same thing we did.” 



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