Neighbors oppose proposed apartment complex in St. Johns County


Apartment complex suggested for San Sebastián River in St. Augustine in flood-prone area.

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — A set of apartments is being proposed along the San Sebastián River in St. Augustine.

The people who already live in the area say that piece of property keeps their neighborhood from flooding even more than it already does.

“It came up to here on you, right?” Dianya Markovitz pointed to her shin, asking one of her neighbors about the floodwater’s height during Tropical Storm Nicole. 

Markovits and many of her neighbors in the Ravenswood area near Masters Drive, know their neighborhood floods when there’s heavy rain or during an exaggerated high tide.

“And when you put that together, which we saw two weeks ago, we had flooding up and down this street,” Markovits said. 

Florida Avenue is that street. In the area, one side of the street has houses, and woods are on the other side.

And those woods back up to the San Sebastián River.

It’s also on that street where an apartment complex called EcoPark is proposed. The plans call for twelve buildings, 40 units, a parking lot with 80 spots, a bulkhead, and a dock.

“This is a small parcel of land. It’s six acres. Only three acres are buildable,” Markovits said. 

She and neighbors agree, those wetlands and wooded area keep the area from flooding even more.

“We’ve had these big storms where it (the floodwater) literally backs up,” Kim Kalafa said. She lives nearby. “Instead of it going into the river, It’s flooding back up the street. Any kind of building or development is going to push that water further not the street.”

Florida Avenue is small and narrow, and a new apartment complex  project could bring more traffic.

“The density is absolutely inappropriate for the neighborhood,” resident Marta Hahn said. “My concern has to do with emergency trucks and ambulances.”

The developer has met with neighbors. The project’s environmental consultant, Ryan Carter, told First Coast News the plan is to construct the buildings on piers or off the ground and not on slabs on the ground. He said when water flows into the property, “it will flow under the buildings and not interfere with natural drainage patterns.”

Carter also said, “We are also digging a stormwater pond that will take in some of the water.”

He noted that very little of the three acres of wetlands will be filled in.  Documents show that .004 acres of wetland will be filled. 

Carter added “this is a good project because it is an (urban) infill project.” 

According to city documents, city staff wants more information from the developer about different things including how water run-off and drainage would be managed.

The property is zoned for multifamily units. It has been since the 1970s. Some of the neighbors in the area say weather and storms have changed since then.

Kalafa said, “I think he city has to take into account the fact that we’re getting more frequent storms. They’re more severe. This is climate change, we’re living it right now.”

Some neighbors admit they know something will be built on this wooded property, but they want something that won’t affect them as much as an apartment complex.  

Markovits said that piece of property is “our last line of defense for flooding.”

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