Editor’s note: Contributing columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insight on various topics in Marketplace column.
The development of Nassau County is happening right in front of our eyes — but do we see it?
Are our eyes open to it? Or are they wide shut?
According to county government records, more than 3,600 single-family lots are being considered or have been approved for development, mostly in Yulee. And only one-fourth of this tally involves the massive East Nassau Community Planning Area, expected to have 20,000 new homes by its completion.
The construction and congestion on State Highway A1A in Yulee offers a taste of the impact of these new developments on our roadways. The lingering taste is sour. While additional infrastructure is planned, you hope it will be enough.
There is more than just the new homes, however. There are 300 proposed apartment units at The Reserve. Five buildings are planned as part of Dayspring Health South. A manufacturer at the Yulee International Tradeplex is expanding by 80,000 square feet.
The list goes on like a scroll. A 5,000-square-foot venue for weddings and other events also appears on the busy drawing board. A park for recreational vehicles (RVs) will have 23 spaces. And hundreds of thousands of square feet will be occupied by new shopping outlets and parking lots and industry.
You might question how we can accommodate it all. One thing is certain — the calm-and-quiet nirvana of our area faces an awakening of sonic-boom proportions.
East Nassau Community Planning Area
The first phase of the East Nassau Community Planning Area has broken ground across A1A from the entrance to the Florida State College campus. This initial project is known as “Wildlight” and includes a public school for 800 students (Wildlight Elementary School, kindergarten through fifth grade), and 450,000 square feet of offices and retail space.
A new Publix supermarket is planned south of this area, while a 40,000-square-foot sheriff’s office complex is currently under construction. You do not have to be clairvoyant to visualize a logjam of congestion around this budding crossroad.
Not to be overlooked or underestimated are these other proposed projects: a Living Waters Outreach Facility with a sanctuary, school and gym; an amenity center at Plummers Creek subdivision; a 13,000-square-foot addition to a Turner Ace Hardware store; a new Flash Foods at U.S. Highway 17 with a fast-food restaurant; a playground and soccer field at Heron Isles; a new RaceTrac convenience store; and Gates Nursery with a greenhouse, design studio and storage.
Then there is the Three Rivers project, which includes 1,400 single-family homes, some 200,000 square feet of retail space, along with light industrial operations. The development will be located west of the East Nassau Community Planning Area (these 1400 homes are included in the 3600-home count).
To complicate the picture further, the Crawford Diamond Industrial Park in rural Bryceville is reportedly attracting several prospective manufacturers. While U.S. Highway 301 has been widened to four lanes to accommodate the Crawford Diamond activity, other parts of the county are not as prepared.
Obviously, we no longer have to outwardly entice people and businesses and industry to come here. Growth is already coming this way like a tsunami. Our county, our lifestyle are extremely desirable to outsiders.
However, this is where our elected leaders must monitor and control the growth at our doorstep. Let’s embrace it, but keep an eye on it. Our eyes must remain vigilant.