In the 2.5 years since we formed the nonprofit Save Guana Now, this is the single most positive development we've had, and we're very excited to share it with you.
As you know, the Outpost property has been in litigation since October of 2016, with Ponte Vedra Corporation (PVC) having sued St. Johns County for not complying with its demands. After numerous hearings, motions and rulings, something very significant has occurred. On December 11th, Judge Traynor
PVC's Motion for Partial Summary Judgement, and in an
, outlined exactly why.
What does this mean for the Outpost? Our attorney Jane West has summed it up very well, in non-legalese:
In the last days of Judge Traynor’s long judicial career he issued a strong order against Ponte Vedra Corporation and their attempt to circumvent the public hearing process with respect to their proposed “Vista Tranquilla” development at The Outpost. Throughout the last several years, PVC has maintained the position that The Outpost’s land use designation of “Conservation” is merely conditional in nature and can be modified merely with a site specific field survey. They have repeatedly demanded from St. Johns County an Administrative Interpretation to this effect. But St. Johns County held their ground and refused to issue such an interpretation on the well justified basis that doing so would in effect constitute an impermissible “side-step” of the public hearing process in favor of a closed-door administrative change to the land use designation.
Thankfully, the Court agreed with the County. Judge Traynor held that the County Administrator only has the authority to interpret the Land Development Code, not the Comprehensive Plan. Despite PVC assertion’s to the contrary, the Court accurately determined that what PVC was really seeking an interpretation of was the Comprehensive Plan, NOT the Land Development Code. He further noted that such an Administrative Interpretation would not be binding on the Board of County Commissioners anyway and so there was really no present need for the declaratory relief sought by PVC. In sum, this was a well-thought out order from a distinguished judge that goes a long way towards ensuring that the public process St. Johns County residents expect from their local government will remain intact. For now. PVC could continue to waste our taxpayer dollars by appealing the order. The deadline for filing a notice of appeal is January 10, 2019.
If PVC decides to move to Public Hearings, we promise our supporters will be the first to know. We'll need your support and attendance. However, if PVC decides to appeal, or they simply take a break to the reassess the situation, we'll continue keeping you apprised of any and all developments.
Dancing in the streets is not planned. Though this ruling represents a victory for wildlife and habitat at the Outpost, our hope is that the Ponte Vedra Corporation will view it not as a defeat, but as an unambiguous clarification of the law governing the designation of conservation land in St. Johns County, and will consider taking steps to preserve in perpetuity these 99 acres that are 97% surrounded by the only national estuarine research reserve on Florida's East Coast. Of course, it's PVC's right to keep doing exactly what they're doing with the property - using it in a low-impact way for private events - which we fully support.
Since it costs money to fund our environmental attorney as well as our Land Use Expert (Tom Atkins), our
Save Your Stuff to Save Guana Now
Garage Sale fundraiser is still happening, but in the spring. Many of you have already donated or promised donations for our sale. Due to circumstances beyond our control, that sale could not take place in the fall, but your donations have been carefully stored, and those who haven't yet donated have EVEN MORE time to collect items for us to sell.
Spring date to be announced. We're asking you to set donations aside OR, if you can't hold them, you can drop off by replying to this email.
100% of the proceeds will go to stopping development at the Outpost. Whether you've got just one item, an armful, a boxful or a trunk-full - we'll take it and we'll sell it! Toys, tools, kitchen items, collectibles, art, sporting goods, bikes, lamps, jewelry, electronics (working), china, handbags, hats, shoes, flower pots, holiday decorations, books, CDs, appliances, furniture that can fit in your car, vintage items, antiques... every dollar you help us raise will pay experts to fight development of 99 acres of conservation land. New or like-new clothes can be donated - preferably on hangers or folded and sorted by size and gender.
We wish you and your family a very joyous holiday, and we hope you'll raise a toast this season to the continued protection of the Outpost property.
Thank you for your ongoing support and your efforts to Save Guana Now!
Nicole Crosby and Gary Coulliette