ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — St. Johns County commissioners got an earful Tuesday as people from all corners of the county told their elected officials they want less – or smarter -- development and construction.
"Oh the trees," St. Augustine native Greg Clifton sighed. "At the lighthouse, they have these old windswept scrub oaks. To me, that’s always been St. Augustine."
Then he compared those trees to the ones he sees coming down for development around the county.
"If you go down (State Road) 207 -- I get so mad every time I ride by – the developers come in and plow every single thing down. They don’t need to," he said.
Clifton was one of more than 60 residents who spoke to county commissioners at a growth management workshop Tuesday. Some of them waited in line at times to have their say.
Public comment lasted for more than two and a half hours.
One woman said clear-cutting is destroying the quality of life in the county. Many mentioned traffic congestion. Others said the county is at capacity. Still others showed photos of subdivisions being built on wetlands.
St. Johns County is one of the fastest growing counties in the nation. However, more and more lately, the people who live here are calling on government leaders to slow down the rubber-stamping of sprawling subdivisions and shopping centers.
The Matanzas Riverkeeper, Jen Lomberk, sat in on the meeting. She was impressed with the number of people who came out to speak and said input is valuable, but action is necessary.
"So I’m hoping this continues with a move to a deeper dive into specific issues and culminates in concrete recommendations to changes that can be made to help us develop growth," Lomberk told First Coast News.
No policy action was taken at the meeting, but there were some takeaways for the commissioners.
At the end of the meeting, County Commissioner Jeremiah Blocker questioned aloud, "Do we have the right form of government for our current and future growth needs? We are really set up to address the needs of a very rural community. We’re not a rural community anymore."
Clifton, the man who admires the trees by the lighthouse said, “St. Augustine needs to say, 'this is what we want.' It’s not developers telling us what to do. We should be telling the developers the lifestyle we want."
Clifton hopes government leaders listen, and plan well, to protect the places that native Floridians and newcomers love.