Fight underway to save Jacksonville from itself

February 4, 2014 51 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

If you care about Jacksonville ever having safe bike lanes and sidewalks, this message from the Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) highlights why time is of essence in saving what's left of the City of Jacksonville's 2030 Mobility Plan and Fee.

In 2011, the Jacksonville City Council passed the 2030 Mobility Plan.  The plan was excellently researched and written.  It received an award from the American Planning Association (APA) of Florida.  The plan was designed in part to solve a huge problem.  Jacksonville had few bike facilities on existing roads and had patchwork sidewalks.  While new roads, by local regulations, are supposed to have 6' sidewalks and 4' bike lanes, EXISTING ROADS lacked bike lanes and sidewalks.  When new roads were built with sidewalks and bike lanes, they went to "nowhere".  They would connect to existing roads without any.  New bike lanes and sidewalks often became a "dead end".  This caused lots of problems:

*  The roads were DANGEROUS FOR CYCLISTS AND PEDESTRIANS. Pedestrians and cyclists would suddenly find themselves on a dangerous road without accommodation for them.

*  Jacksonville suffered from urban sprawl.  Developments sprung up far apart from one another, and existing roads between then were poor.  Because of urban sprawl, motorists drove long distances in their vehicles, contributing to greenhouse gases, and our residents lacked regular exercise, and could not commute by biking or walking.

THE MOBILITY PLAN WAS PASSED WITH GREAT FANFARE TO HELP SOLVE THIS PROBLEM.  The Mobility Plan called for the City to collect "mobility fees" from developers, and the fees would be used to bring existing roads up to standard - including bike and pedestrian facilities.  Connectivity of new roads to existing roads would be accomplished.  Roads would be SAFER. Because the roads would be safe and appealing, more developers would be incentivized to build projects.  Residents would want to live in these areas because of having "complete streets" - roads with safe travel for vehicles, bikes, pedestrians, and public transportation.

But since passage of the Mobility Plan, individual developers have tried to convince our City Council to repeal it, pass a moratorium on the collection of fees, etc.  What they have requested in simple terms - developers want to put more money in their pockets and don't care if Jacksonville roads are safe and connected to each other, so long as the roads within their development are satisfactory for motor vehicles.

NOW, A BILL HAS BEEN PROPOSED TO GRANT EXCEPTIONS TO CERTAIN HUGE DEVELOPERS, SO THE CITY WON'T BE ABLE TO COLLECT MOBILITY FEES FROM THEM.  This is Ordinance 2013-761.  THE ORDINANCE IS FAST TRACKED, meaning it is being considered by the City Council on a very expedited schedule.  I understand IT IS BEING URGED BY THE DAVIS (WINN-DIXIE) FAMILY, who intends to develop a large residential community on the southeast side of Jacksonville.  It appears the Davis family does not want to pay mobility fees which they would currently be required to pay for this project.  I must assume the Davis family only wants to spend money on roads within THEIR development, and does not want to pay mobility fees to bring surrounding, existing roads up to standard, so roads are connected safely.  The Ordinance is also being urged by the Sleimans, local developers, who I understand don't want to pay mobility fees relating to a project at Kernan and Atlantic Blvd.  

If their Ordinance passes, more money will go in the pockets of the Davis family and Sleiman family.  Existing roads will stay the same - no bike lanes, no sidewalks.  The funding source for these facilities is lost.  In my opinion, passage of the amendment will undo a great vision for Jacksonville - the 2030 Mobility Plan.

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