Developer wants to build 1,400 homes on Julington-Durbin Creek Preserve

Developer wants to build 1,400 homes on Julington-Durbin Creek Preserve

A real estate developer wants to build new homes on land that he sold to the state of Florida, the city of Jacksonville and the St. Johns River Water Management District nearly two decades ago.

The land is called the Julington-Durbin Creek Preserve near the Duval-St. Johns County line. The land is used by hikers, horse riders and joggers as an oasis of land in the middle of massive development that is already occurring around its peninsula.

Opponents say it could have a negative impact on the water quality.

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The Julington-Durbin Creek Preserve is a pristine, prime piece of property on the Duval-St. Johns County line that’s been locked off to developers.

But that could but that could be changing.

The Julington-Durbin Creek Preserve provides water quality and flood plain protection for Julington Creek, Durbin Creek and the St. Johns River.

“Local tax dollars were used to protect this land, and we need to make our voices heard,” said Lisa Rinaman, St. Johns Riverkeeper. “The gutting of this preserve makes no sense at all.

“It will degrade these creeks, and ultimately, the St. Johns River.”

In 2001, Bartram Park developer Tom Dodson sold 2,000 acres of the preserve to the state, water management district and city of Jacksonville for nearly $17 million. The city’s share was about $4 million.

Now, he is proposing an even swap of 403 acres of this preserve for 403 acres of Black Hammock Island. The goal is to build 1,400 homes.

The land is located next to State Road 9B, which is extending into St. Johns County. In the last 10 years, the area has exploded with growth, and residents have used the Preserve as a contrast to the concrete sidewalks and miles of asphalt nearby.

“If the preserve area is surrounded by development of varying intensities, maybe its value has been diminished,” said Patrick Krechowski, a land use attorney.

Dodson’s attorney sent me this statement that reads, in part: “Currently, the city has been unable to develop and maintain the park for access to Jacksonville residents.”

Dodson’s company Eastland Partners, says they will spend $1.4 million on new bathrooms, paved parking and a dog park — among amenities — on the 1,600 acres that remain.

The deal would need approval from the St. Johns River Water Management District, Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection and Governor Rick Scott and the Cabinet as well.

The developer sent this statement, which reads in part: 

"Currently the city has been unable to develop and maintain the park for access to Jacksonville residents. The Eastland development will provide permanent maintenance of the remaining 1,600 acres of the Preserve.

“When the city, state and SJRWD acquired Julington-Durbin Preserve in 2001, the intention was for the city to build park amenities and maintain the park,” said former Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney. “Unfortunately, budget constraints and other pressing funding issues have stymied those plans.

This exchange agreement between Eastland and the state will ensure that Jacksonville residents and visitors are able to use the park for years to come.”