St. Johns Law Group attorney Doug Burnett, representing Peter Sleiman Development Group, gets new commercial project approved.

County commissioners give green light to Moultrie Bluff complex

St. Augustine Record

Citing a significant reduction in the size and intensity of the development, the St. Johns County Commission Tuesday approved an amended master plan for the Moultrie Bluff commercial plaza on U.S. 1 South.

Commissioners voted 4-1 (with Jeb Smith dissenting) in favor of a modification to the 10-acre Planned Unit Development. The project calls for 25,384 square feet of retail space in a one-story complex with two access points: a main entrance on U.S. 1 South and a service entrance at the property’s western boundary.

Neighbors — many from the adjacent Moultrie Trails residential community — have opposed the proposal, saying the additional noise, light and traffic will change the character of their neighborhood and affect property values.

Commissioners voted in June to send the plan back to the applicant for more revision after the Planning and Zoning Agency recommended denial of the changes made at that point. The PZA reconsidered the latest site plan Sept. 19, recommending approval with a 3-1 vote.

Under a separate application, property owner Peter Sleiman Development Group is also proposing 15 residential lots that would abut the shopping center to the south.

The parcel is located just north of Wildwood Drive and across from the existing commercial plaza on U.S. 1 South that includes Dick’s Wings and Romano’s, an area that is already heavily congested.

“I feel like there are going to be many accidents,” one Moultrie Trails resident said during the public comment period.

The Department of Transportation will have to consider any road modifications to increase safety at the juncture.

St. Johns Law Group attorney Doug Burnett, representing the applicant, presented an overview of the most recent changes, decreasing the footprint by about 7,000 square feet, reducing the building height, increasing setbacks, adding more buffers and the removal of a retention pond from the plans.

“Quite frankly, we didn’t have everything worked out the way we should have the last time [in June],” Burnett said.

It also sets down more specific limitations to uses, such as the hours of a restaurant with outdoor seating. Developers are suggesting a closing time of 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Businesses such as a stand-alone bar, drive-through restaurant, gas station or movie theater would not be permitted.

But one Moultrie Trails resident questioned the need for the plaza at all, saying: “What is going to be in this shopping center that we cannot live without?”

Commissioner Henry Dean pointed out that the PUD had been approved in 2009, allowing for commercial use at the site, so there was no use in debating that but instead the scale and scope of the project. Dean said he approved of revisions to the project.

But Commissioner Jeb Smith disagreed, saying that the plan represented a “reduction in footprint but not necessarily intensity.”