The PARC Group is going back to the drawing board to get approval from the Clay County Board of County Commissioners so it can move forward on a 25-year, 1,200-acre housing project.
Company representatives presented their case to the board at the recent county commission meeting for a new community, G Bar Ranch.
G Bar Ranch would be built in Green Cove Springs near the Governors Park planned community. It would have a maximum of 3,000 single-family residential homes, 1,000 multi-family residential homes, and 400,000 square feet of commercial space. It is projected that the first residents wouldn’t move in until 2025.
Due to the size of the project, the PARC Group needed the OK from the board to proceed to the state for a State Coordinated Review. The state review takes about 60 days, and before any construction, the developer would need to go back before the county board for approval.
After nearly an hour of discussing the scope of the project and the non-existent infrastructure to support future residents, the board voted 3-1 to continue the discussion until the Oct. 11 meeting. That’s when the BCC expects to hear from the group about how the county will be able to handle the influx of cars, students, and residents needing community services.
The first question from commissioners at the meeting was whether the current roadways could handle the increase in traffic.
“Where does the transportation evaluation come in?” asked Commissioner Jim Renninger. “What about (State Road) 16 capacity? What about (County Road) 315 capacity?”
T. R. Hainline is an attorney who represents the PARC Group. He explained to the board that they would get to those questions later in the process.
“Starting this process allows us to get to those issues,” said Hainline. “Starting that State Coordinated Review is what allows us to get into that process. A transmittal in no way obligates you when we come back to approve adoption. This is literally just an approval to transmit to the state agencies for their comments. You can vote ‘no’ then if that’s what it gets to if we don’t demonstrate to you that we’ve addressed those issues.”
Renninger wasn’t the only commissioner with questions.
“We haven’t talked about school sites. We haven’t talked about firehouse sites. We haven’t talked about parks. We haven’t talked about fairgrounds or EV charging stations, which I think should be planned for as we move forward in modern developments,” said Commissioner Mike Cella. “I think the county has come to a point where we can’t afford to continue to frontload all these expenses without the help of the people that are coming in to develop.”
G Bar Ranch would be located in Commissioner Kristen Burke’s district. She honed in another concern, schools. “What do we do, just pile more portables in Clay High and other schools?” said Burke. “We have already suffered enough, and we are not ready for what’s coming.”
Lance Addison, coordinator of Planning & Intergovernmental Relations for Clay County District Schools, attended the meeting. Commissioner Betsy Condon, who chaired the meeting, asked for his input. He talked about the current cost of building a new school and school capacity.
“We are estimating between $120-140 million to build a high school.” After Burke asked him about the capacity of Clay High, he said, “All the schools are filling up quickly.”
One resident who lives south of the proposed community spoke out against the development and urged the BCC to vote it down. The woman, who did not identify herself at the meeting, said she’s lived in the area for many years. “The community there does not want this.”
Chief David Motes with the Clay County Fire Department commented on how growth promotes the need for new fire stations and personnel.
“How we’re going to even keep up with the growth you have sitting in front of you? Not quite sure how we’re going to do that,” Motes said.
Burke was the lone commissioner who voted against continuing the topic for another date. “It’s kind of like procrastinating. I don’t see how it’s going to get any better in a month or two months.”
Condon agreed but still voted in favor of a continuance. “We know we’re not ready. We know the public infrastructure is not there. I am concerned about selling off the property in portions.”
Commissioner Wayne Bolla was not in attendance due to an election-day commitment.
G Bar Ranch will be considered by the board again on Oct. 11. At that time, representatives are expected to share information from the school district and public safety about handling the growth.