JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A proposed development near Pumpkin Hill Preserve has neighbors raising the alarm citing environmental and safety concerns.
Jimmy and Deborah Wood have lived off Cedar Point Road for half a century.
They chose the area because of its seclusion and natural beauty.
“The City of Jacksonville, the state, and the federal has put millions and millions of dollars out here to preserve this area,” said Jimmy Wood.
And while the area is beautiful, encompassing eight adjoined preserves, it’s also prone to dangerous wildfires.
Jimmy recounted fighting back flames attempting to protect his home years ago.
“We stood right here and as far as this way, all the way around this way, was flames,” said Jimmy pointing from one side of their multi-acre property to the other.
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The threat of wildfires is one reason why the Woods and other residents in the area have fought for four years now to stop a proposed development of 97 homes on a nearby 48-acre property, entirely surrounded by environmentally sensitive lands.
Jimmy fears the development could taint the surrounding natural lands and lead to further development down the road.
“That’d be just like taking a birthday cake and having a roach on it. That roach will end up destroying that cake,” said Jimmy.
The plot is privately owned, but not currently zoned for such a development.
A bill changing the zoning in the city’s 2030 Comprehensive Plan to allow for future development drew sharp debate during a Jacksonville City Council meeting earlier this week.
“We are putting people in an area where it’s going to be a problem,” said Councilmember and mayoral candidate Al Ferraro (R-District 2) in opposition to the bill.
“I’m a big advocate of property rights,” said Councilmember Nick Howland (R-Group3 At-Large) as he argued in support of the current property owner.
To the disdain of residents, the bill, despite a nearly identical proposal having been unanimously rejected by the council just two years prior.
“You slapped us in the face!” decried one neighbor Sharlene Byrum after the vote was taken.
Now, neighbors’ only hope is that the council will consider zoning the property to limit the number of units allowed on the land.
“That would be the last straw. We would like to see it in conservation land,” said Jimmy.
Council will revisit the issue in Mid-February.
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