ICI/Middlebourne developers to ask St. Johns County Commission for continuance on 426-home project

Developers behind ICI/Middlebourne on Tuesday will ask St. Johns County commissioners to, once again, continue the hearings on their Comprehensive Plan amendment and Planned Unit Development rezoning requests for a proposed 426-home project in the northwest.


Commissioners at their March 21 meeting had already delayed making a decision on the development, which was unanimously recommended for denial on Jan. 19 by Planning and Zoning Agency members who said it was “too much, too soon.”

Although developers came to the board with changes to the plans, including a reduction in the number of homes from 450 to 426 and addressing some concerns for nearby roads, commissioners still had qualms about a lack of road and school capacity, as well as a lack of public resources to fund and plan improvements ahead of the project.

The 4-0 vote to continue the matter came after about two hours of discussion during which Commissioner Henry Dean left to catch a flight to Washington to represent the county in a meeting about beach renourishment with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Before leaving, Dean announced he would have voted in favor of the development because he thought it would “bring more to the table than it takes away.”

The remaining commissioners said they did not want to proceed with voting without Dean because the vote would likely be split.

At their May 2 meeting, commissioners voted 3-2 to deny a request for a Comprehensive Plan amendment that would have allowed a 305-home project called Mill Creek Forest, located on Greenbriar Road east of Longleaf Pine Parkway. The split decision came after concerns, again, were raised about crowded roads and schools and overburdened infrastructure in the northwest, to say nothing of a lack of funding to address any of those issues anytime soon.

Commissioners Jay Morris, Jeb Smith and Paul Waldron voted against Commission Chairman Jimmy Johns’ motion to approve the residential-only development. Johns was joined only by Dean in voting yes. Still, the developers’ request for a PUD for Mill Creek Forest was continued and they could potentially return with a new request for a Comprehensive Plan amendment at a future meeting.

An email from Attorney Ellen Avery-Smith to the county said ICI wished to continue Tuesday’s hearings on Middlebourne to either June 20 or July 18 “to give the project team more time to obtain estimates for ICI’s potential construction of off-site roadway improvements (Longleaf Pine Parkway east and Veterans Parkway north).” She said the developers would appear at Tuesday’s meeting to formally request the continuances.

County spokesman Michael Ryan told The Record on Friday the items are still on the final agenda and that the board will have to vote to remove them.

Located at the intersection of Longleaf Pine Parkway and Veterans Parkway, ICI/Middlebourne calls for 426 single-family homes, 187,500 square feet of commercial space and 152,500 square feet of office space in an area that has done nothing but grow in recent years. The property is nearly surrounded by PUDs: Julington Creek to the north, Julington Lakes and Aberdeen to the west and Oakridge Landing to the east, with Industrial Warehouse and Open Rural uses to the south.

Both the PZA and County Commission complimented ICI Homes’ work, and even recognized the area’s appropriateness for the development, but said there were problems with timing when it comes to mitigating a lack of services and infrastructure not addressed by concurrency review and impact fees.

At the March 21 meeting, Morris said the county is unable to keep up with existing demand.

“What you can’t do, we can’t do,” he told developers. “For me, it’s coming in too soon.”