Amelia Baptist Church Seeks to Rezone, Expand and Sell to Developer

By Mike Phillips

The Amelia Baptist Church (ABC) owns 10+ acres adjoining its property in Nassau County. ABC is proposing to rezone its adjoining property to Planned Unit Development (PUD). The rezoning will allow the expansion of the church and its ministries – and also make possible the sale of part of the property to a developer who is interested in building waterfront condos.

A preliminary plan for this project will be presented to county planners at 9 a.m. today – and already, neighbors are concerned.

The lot in question is a mature live oak grove, heavily wooded. The plan in question would remove many of those trees, possibly most. This was the reaction of Lyn Pannone, president of Amelia Tree Conservancy:

“Amelia Tree Conservancy is greatly concerned with the loss of tree canopy for this project. Loss of tree coverage is especially dangerous on a barrier island; the more trees we remove, the more vulnerable the island becomes to storm damage. There are already drainage issues in that area which have been exacerbated by other nearby projects. Tree destruction in that area will result in more stormwater runoff for adjacent neighborhoods. The trees along Buccaneer Trail, a canopy road, will suffer as a result. It’s time to put a stop to over-development.”

And a neighbor, Betsie Heuben, who is well-versed in planning and zoning issues, offered several technical objections. But first, she set the stage:

“This church and the associated property are at the roundabout directly across from the Parkway Grille. It is bounded by Buccaneer and Tanager Lane. The parcel the church is on abuts a parcel immediately to the north of the church. The property value was $4.4 million and act of sale/transfer was in March of 2023 for the Maria Sellers Revocable Trust to the church. It is the large parcel forming the terminal dead end of Shadow Woods Lane.”

A preliminary lot plan submitted to the county sketches in buildings for various activities, and also several condominium buildings. The condos, she said, present a problem because Shadow Woods Lane would have to be opened up to allow for emergecy vehicles.

But more seriously, she said, much of the property is in flood and evacuation zones. Additionally, she points out, most of the properties in the area are serviced by septic and wells – but the county has mandated no further well/septic service in Amelia Island neighborhoods. And water and sewer service are not yet available in that neighborhood.

The area zoning is primarily single-family housing, she points out, but the preliminary plan indicates three condominium buildings on the property. That would be legal under a rezone, but would cause traffic congestion, she says.

The Observer reached out to the church for comment, but has not yet heard back. The first preliminary presentation of this proposal at 9 a.m. today will allow for no public discussion. The church is not asking for approval at this time – rather, it hopes for a full-scale hearing — which would allow for public discussion.