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Council snubs rezoning of senior housing land

– City Council members on Tuesday turned down a request to rezone residential land for three senior duplexes.

HH Construction had asked to change the 1.4 acres at 6641 St. Joe Center Road to “planned residential” to allow the three duplexes.

The parcel is immediately east of St. Joe Central Elementary School and sits in the crook of the Jonathan Oaks subdivision.

Michelle Wood, senior planner for the Department of Planning Services, told council members several neighbors opposed the project, and there were questions about the plan for a retention pond that would border the school’s playground.

Despite concerns, the city Plan Commission voted to approve the change, she said.

But Councilman Tom Smith, R-1st, who represents the area, opposed the project.

“It’s shoe-horned in there. It’s a tight fit,” Smith said. “I just think this isn’t the best fit or the best use for this land. … It seems to be trying to pound square pegs into a round hole.”

Mitch Harper, R-4th, said he wasn’t as concerned about that project’s retention pond – which will be dry except during rainstorms – as he was about the Jonathan Oaks pond just east of the property. Senior citizens and a large pond are a bad combination, he said.

The proposal failed in committee session 5-3, with only Harper; Russ Jehl, R-2nd; and John Crawford, R-at large, voting “yes.” John Shoaff, D-at large, was absent, which led to a move to hold the proposal.

Shoaff is on the Plan Commission, and Crawford noted that if the council denied the change, the applicants could not apply again for a year, despite all the time and money they spent, and it might be worth waiting until Shoaff was present to explain why the Plan Commission voted in favor of the change despite the concerns.

The move to hold the measure failed, however, and the council voted in regular session to deny the request.

Council members voted unanimously to approve a request by Neil H. Kobi to rezone land at 2316 and 2328 Getz Road for a Wings, Etc. restaurant, and another by Millenia Housing Development to build two-story attached townhomes as part of the effort to remake the Eden Green apartment complex.

In other business, the council voted to name Tom Didier, R-3rd, council president for 2013 and named Marty Bender, R-at large, as vice president.