Board recommends denial of Planned Unit Development for Ponte Vedra Inn & Club

The resort is seeking to modernize facilities, some of which were built before zoning laws were in place.

John Peyton told The Ponte Vedra Zoning and Adjustment Board that he has no intention to sell his resort property in Ponte Vedra Beach.
John Peyton told The Ponte Vedra Zoning and Adjustment Board that he has no intention to sell his resort property in Ponte Vedra Beach.
Photo by Dan Macdonald
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After an 11-hour meeting, the Ponte Vedra Zoning and Adjustment Board voted Sept. 11 to recommend denial of a request for creation of a Planned Unit Development for the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club and The Lodge & Club, which is seeking to renovate its properties.

The recommendation for denial passed 4-3 with Megan McKinley, Richard Ensslen, Anthony Peduto and Jane Rollinson voting for the denial. Members John Patton, Samuel Crozier and Chip Greene voted to recommend approval.

After handling two private homeowner petitions, the seven-person advisory board went over point-by-point the 31 waivers that Gate Petroleum, the resort owners, are seeking in the PUD, which determines how properties can be built.

Ellen Avery-Smith of Rogers Towers was the lead attorney presenting for Gate. She led a team of architects, planners and builders who presented the company’s case.

The Ponte Vedra Inn & Club is at 200 Ponte Vedra Blvd. and The Lodge & Club is at 607 Ponte Vedra Blvd. along the Atlantic Ocean.

The vote is not binding. It is a recommendation that will be part of the presentation heard by the St. Johns County Planning & Zoning Agency from 11 a.m.until 1:30 p.m. Sept. 21 at the St. Johns County Auditorium at 500 San Sebastian View in St. Augustine. If there is no vote by 1:30 p.m. the PUD will be tabled to allow two other applicants to be heard in a timely manner. The Agency will then again take up the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club PUD request. The meeting is streamed at Watch GTV Live (

The  Planning & Zoning Agency also will make a nonbinding recommendation on the PUD that will be part of an information package voted on by the St. Johns County Commission at a meeting scheduled Nov. 7.

Lead attorney Ellen Avery-Smith of Rogers Towers was on her feet during much of the 11-hour PUD presentation.
Photo by Dan Macdonald

On Sept. 6, the Ponte Vedra/Palm Valley Architecture Review Committee recommended approval of the architectural components of Gate’s projects. The committee also approved architectural plans for a new fitness center and Surf Club.

However, the Architecture Review Committee did not recommend the Unified Sign Plan because it was incomplete.

Despite the Zoning and Adjustment Board denial, Gate President John Peyton was optimistic about the results.

“We had 29 out of 31 waivers pass. I think that is a healthy result for us,” he said.

“We have taken into account the suggestions to make this project better. We appreciate everyone’s passion and concern for this property.”

The resort is seeking a PUD to bring several of its buildings into code compliance. Some were built before the county created zoning laws. 

It also would allow Gate to construct two fitness buildings, move tennis and pickleball courts, and build a new Surf Club and two parking garages.

It also would allow the resort to replace oceanfront hotel buildings with new ones, similar to the Peyton House and Ocean House that opened in 2020, as needed.

The changes are part of a proposed 30-year master plan presented by Gate.

Peyton addressed the panel at the start of the meeting, emphasizing that the resort properties are not for sale. 

A slide shown at the Ponte Vedra/Palm Valley Architectural Review Committee meeting Sept. 6 shows the proposed sports club at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club.
Photo by Dan Macdonald

He said the facilities need to be updated to stay competitive in the vacation and club marketplace.

Avery-Smith said there would be no residential construction because the PUD pertains to resort and commercial enterprises. There have been neighborhood rumors of residential construction on the golf courses and lagoon.

Throughout the meeting, building heights, placement of a parking garage next to The Carlyle condominiums and the size and quantity of parking spaces were discussed.

Other waivers included signage, architectural elements, trees, liquor sales on resort beach property and other topics.

Waivers 1 and 24 were denied. Both concern building height.

The primary concern in Waiver 1 was the height of the south parking garage next to The Carlyle. The waiver would have limited the height of the parking garage to 38 feet and allowed elevator and stairwell towers to be as tall as 50 feet as to be less obtrusive to those living in The Carlyle.

Board members also recommended that the parking structure be moved to the south to enable better views for condo owners in The Carlysle. Additional architectural features were requested to disguise the garage’s flat top floor.

There were concerns that if the historic inn was destroyed by natural causes, it could be redesigned and rebuilt to its current 54-foot height. 

The motion to deny Waiver 1 was approved in a 5-2 vote. 

Waiver 24 sought to allow buildings on the ocean side of Ponte Vedra Boulevard to be more than 35 feet tall. The additional height would have taken into account resiliency concerns for the waterfront structures. The waiver noted older resort housing buildings in this location are more than 35 feet tall.

The recommendation to deny Waiver 24 passed 4-3.

A rendering of the proposed Surf Club at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club as seen from the beach.
Photo by Dan Macdonald

To create more parking spaces, a waiver was approved to reduce the size of individual spaces from 20 feet long and 10 feet wide to 19-by-9. The panel also discussed the need for a mix of larger spots to accommodate today’s oversized trucks and SUVs as well as saving space with smaller spaces for compact cars.

The PUD had requested that the number of parking spaces increase from 887 at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club to about 1,200 spots and at the Lodge & Club from 237 to 540. However, the exact number is dependent on final design and contingent on any direction from the county commission, said Misty Skipper, vice president of external affairs at Gate.

Advisory member Ensslen spoke of how parking was a measure of the number of guests, members and staff that needed a place to park. Several times he asked the resort owners for membership numbers from 2017 to the present and projected membership growth for the next five years.

Each time, Avery-Smith told the panel that membership was proprietary information and her client was under no obligation in the PUD request to release it. She said repeatedly that in a PUD application the number of parking spaces is determined by the land development code for uses and square footage, not by the membership roster. 

The approval and denial of waivers ended around 10:30 p.m., leaving the board only to vote to recommend the PUD’s approval or denial. 

Chair McKinley sided with denial because all of the waivers were not passed.

Member Chip Greene disagreed, saying a recommendation to approve could be made even with the denial of two waivers.

McKinley insisted all 31 waivers needed to be supported to allow for an approval recommendation.

Greene then asked if all 31 had to pass why did they spend a lengthy amount of time reviewing the other 30 waiver requests when Waiver 1 was rejected at the start?

A motion to recommend PUD approval failed 3-4.

It was followed by a motion to recommend denial of the PUD. It passed 4-3.