An effort to develop a former golf course has led Jacksonville officials to consider razing a bank to ease traffic problems around Baymeadows Road.
As a practical matter, demolishing the bank would change the traffic patterns immensely, said Paul Harden, an attorney for home-builder D.R. Horton, which has sought for almost a decade to redevelop the Baymeadows Golf Club just east of Interstate 95.
Whether the latest effort will yield change is uncertain.
But two years of talks between residents and Horton representatives have spread to involve city and state officials in discussions about ways to renew the neighborhood and reduce traffic congestion.
Formal agreements to start redevelopment seem possible within the year, said City Councilman Don Redman, whose district includes part of the developer’s property at Baymeadows and Baymeadows Circle West.
As talks have continued, plans for improving traffic flow near the closed, 1969-vintage golf course has become a focus for people serving a mix of neighborhood and business interests.
“The thing that really worries me the most is that intersection, that it’s not aligned here. … If I was building that project, that would be a concern to me,” Council President Bill Gulliford said during a meeting to talk through Horton’s property plans.
To speed up traffic, redevelopment backers want to move Baymeadows Circle West about a block farther west. That would make its ending, on the north side of Baymeadows Road, line up with the end of Western Way on Baymeadows’ south side, making them function like one continuous road.
To do that, Gulliford recently asked Bank of America’s regional president, Greg Smith, to consider the extraordinary step of allowing a branch bank at 9225 Baymeadows Road to be bulldozed to clear a new path for the road. He said later that nothing had been decided.
Bank of America spokesman Matthew Daily declined comment when asked whether the bank is open to the request.
The Duval County Property Appraiser’s Office assesses the 39-year-old bank building as worth $1.5 million.
Getting traffic through faster is necessary to make any redevelopment viable, said Frank Morgan, president of the Baymeadows Community Council, an advocacy group representing about a dozen homeowner associations and apartment complexes around the old course.
That council has hammered out a development plan with Horton representatives following about two years of negotiations.
That master plan includes six separate rezonings covering about 113 acres Horton bought in 2005.
The company closed the course and once planned to build 1,400 houses and condominiums, plus retail and office space.
Horton agreed to provide $7.1 million in road and transit improvements to make up for impacts of the new homes and businesses, but former Mayor John Peyton vetoed that deal, saying he wouldn’t allow the impact on Baymeadows motorists. Courts later upheld the veto.
The new master plan calls for 697 new homes – single-family houses plus apartments or condominiums. Horton would, again, have to pay something to make up for the project’s impact on roads, but that amount hasn’t been calculated yet. That cost will be set through a new system, called a mobility fee, which figures the amount differently than in the deal Peyton killed.
The fee isn’t expected to pay for realigning a road, particularly if that includes razing a bank, and no one has stepped up to cover the as-yet-unspecified cost.
“You’re not going to eliminate all traffic congestion, but you’re certainly going to make it better,” James Bennett, an engineer with Florida’s Department of Transportation, told council members.
Project backers pointed out that Baymeadows is a state road, but Bennett pushed back any suggestion his agency should help finance the work.
“We’re not buying it. This is not our initiative, it’s not our priority,” he said. “ … It’s the city’s and the developer’s.”
Redman said he’s not convinced that will be the last word on state involvement in the roadwork.
Steve Patterson: (904) 359-4263