A food retailer could soon move its regional headquarters from Jacksonville to rural St. Johns County if commissioners approve a proposed development.
And while it would create more jobs in the area, some object to the loss of more farmland in St. Johns County.
The proposal, planned for State Road 207 and County Road 305, would change the county’s overall plan for approximately 92 acres from heavy agricultural use to industrial land use. It would allow up to 1.25 million square feet of light industrial, warehouse and distribution uses, according to county documents.
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According to a letter from project attorney Kathryn Whittington, “The project would allow manufacturing and distribution centers, warehouses (including freezer, refrigeration and ambient storage space) or similar commercial uses with office spaces, parking, loading docks and other ancillary uses required for this type of industrial park.
The Elkton property was “used for row farming,” according to county documents. The area to the east is used for agriculture, and the intersection has “a post office, restaurants, a vehicle service and repair shop, and agricultural procession facilities.”
The proposal is tentatively scheduled to go to the County Commission on September 20, and the commissioners will consider sending the proposed land use change for state review. The Planning and Zoning Agency recently voted 4 to 2 to recommend sending it for state review. If approved by the commissioners, the project would return with a rezoning application to the Planning and Zoning Agency for a recommendation and to the commission for a final vote.
Developer Chris Shee said KeHE, a food retailer, could bring one of its headquarters to the site if the project moves ahead in time.
“The company plans to move its regional headquarters from Southeast Jacksonville to this location. It’s a major job provider,” Shee said.
Concerns about rural lands in St. Johns County
Shee said one of the reasons he bought the property was knowing it would become a major intersection, with County Road 2209 being extended alongside 305.
“It makes for a perfect site being close to the highway with a main highway already in front,” he said.
Although he has said rural land should be preserved, he believes his plan is the best use of the property.
“Farms are an essential part and should remain an essential part of this county. The farms, although in my opinion that fit this description of real need to be protected are those that are more internal – again, not ones that have, like my property, a quarter-acre of frontage on a four-lane highway,” Shee said.
Shee said operators of the Sunshine Bus, the county’s public transportation system, are open to adding stops to SR 207 and CR 305, which would provide job opportunities for people in the area without transportation, he said. -he declares.
County residents expressed their concerns during public comments.
Board member Richard Hilsenbeck said he was opposed to “taking farmland…and covering it up”. He said the county’s agricultural footprint is shrinking rather than expanding, so he doesn’t see the need for stockpiling.
An area designated as rural-commercial is at the intersection. Businesses in the area include Jim’s Place restaurant, a vehicle repair shop and agricultural processing facilities, according to county documents.
“It’s like a sleepy hamlet on a stretch of rural highway. It’s not a big commercial development node that you all put in the development request,” Hilsenbeck said.