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Where will the water go? Neighbors worry proposed multi-family complex will push groundwater their way

The condo complex is proposed on land that is 50% wetland

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — A neighborhood in St. Augustine is seeing development work its way closer and closer to its residents. 

And the people there already deal with persistent flooding.

They’re worried that a proposed multifamily housing project could flood their neighborhood even more. This proposal comes after two restaurants were already approved for construction on nearby wetlands. 

The neighborhood of Winton Circle that is off Watson Road in St. Augustine floods.

"If we had a 2-3 inch nor'easter, the water would come up all the way to the back of where my truck is (in my driveway), and it would take a week to drain," Peter Dorpema told First Coast News Thursday. And he had it better than many of his neighbors on Winton Circle. St. Johns County is now correcting a poor drainage plan in the neighborhood with bigger pipes and ditches. However, Dorpema is concerned how a proposed condo project could impact drainage in the area.  It's about a third of a mile down Watson Road. 

If approved, the Mivo multifamily project would be located on the corner of U.S. 1 and Watson Road in Southern St. Augustine. According to the application before St. Johns County, the developer wants to build seven buildings, three stories tall, with more than 200 units.

Currently, according to application, the 15 acres of land is 53 percent wetlands and none of the wetlands would be preserved.

"If you build another 200 homes on that corner, where’s that water going to go? It’s going to have to go north," Dorpema said. "Well, if it’s going to go north, where’s our water going to go?"

And just across Watson Road from the proposed condos, St. Johns County has already approved land to be cleared to build two fast food restaurants. That land was at least 70 percent wetland. A pond was created to catch water there, and a wastewater pond is in the blueprints for the condos. However, many neighbors are still concerned about drainage.

They doubt the new ditches will be able to handle the water that the new construction will displace when the wetlands disappear under concrete. 

Neighbors, such as Dorpema, plan to attend a St. Johns County Planning and Zoning Board meeting Thursday April, 21 at 1:30 p.m. 

"Yeah, we’re going to fight it," Dorpema said. "We’re going to go to the meeting and let them know what we really think." He added, "I wish they’d finally realize they’re building far more than we can handle right now."

Credit: Contributed
A map indicates where the wetlands are located on the proposed condo site

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