Developer withdraws Vilano Beach resort proposal

Jessica Clark reports. 9/20/2016

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. -- A proposed beach resort in St. Johns County has been put on hold... at least for now.

The developers of the proposed Watermarke Beachcomber resort In Vilano Beach pulled the application Tuesday evening.

That's after St. Johns County Commissioners spent hours discussing the project and hearing from dozens of people in a public hearing Tuesday afternoon.

According to county staff, by withdrawing the application, the developer is choosing not to pursue the project as is - at least for now.

The Watermarke Beachcomber Resort was proposed to sit on A1A, just north of the Vilano or Usina Bridge, extending from the ocean, over A1A and to the Intracoastal Waterway. 

The property is 43 acres. The resort itself would have been on 17 acres, leaving 26 acres as conservation land.

Plans called for 120 hotel rooms and 50 suites in beach villas. The project would have had 70,000 square feet of commercial space spread out over the resort for things like meeting spaces, restaurants, a spa and gift shops.

Some people at Tuesday's county commission meeting wore "Save Our Vilano" t-shirts, in opposition to the resort.

Mel Longo lives in Vilano Beach. He says, "The Watermarke development will bring more development to a strip of land that's very environmentally sensitive."

Loretta Leto also lives near the proposed project and believes the resort would bring more traffic.

"A1A cannot be widened there. There's no way to widen it to 4 lanes," she says.

But the developers' attorney told commissioners Tuesday that the real cause of traffic concerns - which is on the other side of the bridge at May Street and San Marco - wouldn't be a traffic issue by the time the resort is built because the Department of Transportation is re-vamping that intersection.

Also, the developers say the land is already approved for 79 residential units. They say the resort would actually spur less traffic, bring fewer people and have less of an environment impact than what it's zoned for now.

(© 2016 WTLV)


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