Published in The Beaches Leader, Letter to the Editor on March 23, 2023
To the editor:
Jacksonville Beach Ordinance #2023-8195 increases the permitted height to 55 feet in the “site specific” Latham parking lot if the construction meets certain incentive criteria in the buildings and/or grounds. City Council voted to defer a similar ordinance allowing heights up to 55 feet all over the CBD.
In an audio of the City Council briefing held February 13, the city manager proposed this “site specific” height increase for just the Latham parking lot. It was suggested that “this would be an opportunity to move forward for some type of height increase in the downtown which could possibly be a showcase for a lot of different incentives proposed for development.” It was approved by the council and thus Ordinance #2023-8195 was born.
March 6, the Jacksonville Beach City Council voted 5 to 2 to pass this “site specific” ordinance on first reading. This was a well-attended meeting and many citizens voiced their opinion against approval of this ordinance. The second reading [was] held March 20 … in City Chambers. If [it] passed on this second reading, the ordinance will be placed on the ballot on May 16, allowing a vote by Jax Beach citizens. This is a VERY IMPORTANT CHANGE to the 35 Feet Height Amendment passed by voters in 2004.
There have been plans for development in Latham Plaza and the surrounding areas for a while. One study showed wonderful development ideas in the CBD within the 35 feet limit. Neptune Beach and Atlantic Beach have successfully developed a smaller and busy Town Center and other areas within their cities under a 35 feet height limit.
Even though we may be able to speak at future City Council meetings to offer our opinions on the type of buildings we would like to see in the Latham parking lot or other places in our city, the City Council vote will determine if they approve or disapprove them. If the majority of the council [approved] Ordinance #8195 on the second reading on March 20, it [has passed] and this increase in height will go on the ballot on May 16. You can decide if this change is good or bad for our city and then VOTE accordingly. If approved, what other city or commercial properties might be next?
This is a slippery slope and once you are on it, you may not be able to stop the slide. Please pay attention and inform your family and friends of this new attempt to increase the height in Jacksonville Beach! Watch for news and Public Notices in The Beaches Leader about this. Be warned, however, the recent Public Notice for ORDINANCE NO # 2023-8195 in The Beaches Leader did not mention the word HEIGHT. You can also check City Council agendas and minutes on the city’s website.