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Affordable St. Johns County apartment complex proposal draws concerns from nearby neighbors

ST. JOHNS, Fla. — A proposed affordable housing complex could bring hundreds of new people to northern St. Johns County.

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The proposal is being presented to the planning and zoning board on Thursday. If approved, it would be built on 19 acres of untouched farmland between the Wards Creek and Silverleaf neighborhoods, on CR-16A.

Neighbors living nearby like Ernest Wilder say it needs to go somewhere else.

“We are not excited about this,” Wilder says.

The land almost touches Wilder’s backyard. He tells Action News Jax it’s looked just about the same since he moved to Wards Creek about four years ago. But it’s now being eyed as the site for the Preserve at Wards Creek, the proposed apartment complex.

“There are, frankly, better places to build this affordable housing community,” says Wilder.

The apartment complex is called the Preserve at Wards Creek, which calls for 288 apartments with a total of 876 rooms. All of them are intended for households making less than 60% of the area’s median income. In St. Johns County, it’s around $53,000 per year.

These are the income limits the developer says they would put the units, per the number of people living inside:

  • 1 person: $37,200
  • 2 people: $42,480
  • 3 people: $47,820
  • 4 people: $53,100
  • 5 people: $57,360
  • 6 people: $61,620

The developer says they would also pitch in $4,498,117 to seven road work projects planned for the area, which includes widening CR-16A to four lanes between River Reach Parkway and SR-16.

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FDOT says at least 22,000 cars pass through the intersection of Silverleaf Parkway and SR-16 each day, which is just about a block away from the site of the proposed apartments. The developer says the complex could add another 1,214 trips through the area each day.

Wilder says the new complex would cause too much traffic.

“This is not a good place to do this,” Wilder says.

But some like Bill Lazar, executive director of the St. Johns Housing Partnership, say the opposite.

“We really need this,” says Lazar.

Lazar says St. Johns County needs thousands more affordable homes than it currently has.

“[The northern part] of the county just keeps growing faster and faster,” Lazar says.

Of the 31 housing developments proposed for the county, per the county’s development tracker, two are marked as affordable. Lazar says it’s not enough.

“For the folks who say, ‘I don’t want [the apartments] to be here,’ the question is, do you want it somewhere?” says Lazar.

Wilder’s answer is four words holding his hopes for the project.

“It doesn’t go forward,” Wilder says.

A spokesperson for Preserve at Wards Creek sent an email that said they’re working to get us connected to someone with the developer on Wednesday.

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