New Granada zoning legislation puts brakes on developers

Granada residents need no longer be concerned that developers will be able to get two lots for the price of one.

On Jan. 22, the Jacksonville City Council unanimously voted to change the zoning for the Granada subdivision from RLD-60 (Residential Low Density-60) to RLD-70, making it impossible for developers to subdivide the larger lots in the neighborhood, many of which were originally platted in the early 1920s.

“Getting the ordinance through had no problems,” said District 5 Councilwoman Lori Boyer. “We had no negative comments whatsoever.”

“I’m so thrilled the bill passed,” said Kristanna Barnes, a Granada resident who, along with her neighbors Amy Stapleton and Suzanne Shaw, had pushed for the plan. “It passed unanimously so RDL-70 is the zoning now for Granada!”

Stapleton agreed. “This brings us back closer to what the neighborhood was originally platted at. This neighborhood was designed in 1924, and originally all the lots but two were 70 feet or larger.”

When the Granada subdivision was originally platted, there were no zoning restrictions, said Boyer. In the early 1970s, during consolidation, zoning was assigned to all the property in Duval County and RLD-60 (Residential Low Density-60 feet) was the default residential zoning unless someone spoke up to the contrary, she said. 

Although most of the lots had frontage that was 70 feet or more, Granada fell into the RLD-60 category because there were two smaller lots – 69.5 feet and 65.5. feet – that were under the RLD-70 limit, said Stapleton. “They went with the lowest common denominator,” she said, adding that the homes on the river were zoned differently and allowed a minimum of 90 feet of frontage.

“We’re not sure how it happened, but I think most of the people who live here did not realize how the neighborhood was zoned until the house next to mine on Alcazar Avenue was torn down and split into two 60-foot lots,” Stapleton said. 

Barnes agreed. “Many of us became concerned as it seemed more houses were being torn down to subdivide the property,” she said. “The final call to arms came with the razing of the house on the corner of Alcazar and Alhambra Drive South. It is a beautiful corner lot, gorgeous old oak trees, which the developer has now divided in half and will cram two houses into the space.”

Although other homes on Alcazar have been torn down and the lots subdivided, each had more than 60 feet of frontage after the property was split in half, so it was not quite as concerning, said Stapleton, adding one property had been a single lot initially and the developer bought 20 feet from the neighbors on each side to enlarge the property even more. 

A home on Cordova Avenue was also torn down and the property divided in two lots – one 65 feet and one 70 feet, she said.

But the home at 4040 Alcazar Avenue, next to Stapleton’s home, seemed different.

“Whoever owned my house before split the lot in between so each [her house and 4040 Alcazar] had a lot and a half,” she explained. “My lot is 112 feet, 75 feet and half of the lot [37 feet] that had been next door. When everyone realized how small 60 feet is, the others in the neighborhood were pretty much up in arms.

“I didn’t care they tore down George Zellner’s house. It wasn’t that architecturally pleasing,” Stapleton continued. “But where there was a 2,200-square foot house on a very large lot, there is now going to be two 3,400-square-foot homes in that same space. That’s when people started getting upset.”

According to the property appraiser’s website, 4040 Alcazar Avenue is owned by Four Nine Partners LLC, a company registered to Jonathan Davis, also a Granada resident, who purchased the property for $585,000 in April 2018. Stapleton said Davis told her he was originally planning to renovate the home to sell but changed his mind, deciding instead to raze the existing structure and subdivide the property because it was too expensive to flip. His brother, San Marco resident Ryan Davis, who owns Piper Homes, a residential construction company, is in the process of building two homes on the property.

Unsure of what to do, Barnes, Stapleton and Shaw contacted Boyer for advice.

“She sat down with us and explained the various options [which included making Granada a historic district or establishing an overlay similar to what is in San Marco]. Requesting to have our zoning better match our actual lot sizes seemed the sensible approach,” said Barnes, noting Boyer set up a neighborhood meeting in November at Southside United Methodist Church where approximately 25 Granada residents met with Boyer, Jacksonville Director of Planning and Development Bill Killingsworth and City Planner Folks Huxford.

“RLD-70 would have prevented the division of either of the Alcazar properties as neither had 140 feet of frontage. We believe this will resolve the issue with developers.

“The charm and desirability of our neighborhood is the larger lot sizes, the huge old oak trees and the uniqueness of the homes,” Barnes continued. “The developers are cramming two large homes onto lots that previously held one home. The design of the homes are stock plans, nothing unique, and make it look more like any neighborhood anywhere. These large houses on smaller lots are taking away from the original layout of the neighborhood. It is my belief that, if more were to be built, it could have a negative impact on our property values. Our neighborhood would no longer reflect the unique history that it does now.”

Stapleton agreed. “This is one step in helping protect the aesthetic of the neighborhood,” she said.

Developer Ryan Davis of Piper Homes, whose project on Alcazar Avenue will not be affected by the zoning change, said he had no problem with the new legislation. “I understand why they are doing it. The important thing about infill development is that you respect the community and build projects that really fit. That’s what we are always trying to do,” he said, adding that he is a member of the Jacksonville Historic Planning Commission. 

“We’ve done a lot of work over in Riverside and Avondale, which is sort of the vanguard of what is starting to happen in San Marco,” he said. “We did a project last year in Avondale and worked closely with RAP (Riverside Avondale Preservation) and the historic commission. I think we will start to see more of that happening in San Marco.” 

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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