Commentary: Blindsided by a ‘Good Neighbor’ Church

By Samuel Jefferson Kennard

I am shocked and dismayed to hear that Amelia Baptist Church wants to become a property developer. There seems to be no limit to poorly conceived and egregious high-density property development proposals on Amelia Island. Theirs is the latest.

Amelia Baptist Church is proposing to build a 24-unit waterfront condominium complex on 2.5 acres of 10 acres that they have acquired. Specifically, they are asking the Nassau County Development Review Committee to rezone 2.5 acres, presently zoned Residential Single Family, to Planned Unit Development (PUD). That is high-density residential zoning.

The only traffic access and egress for residents of these proposed 24 condominium units will be Shadow Woods Lane and the already highly trafficked, congested and dangerous Buccaneer Trail, Fletcher Avenue and Gerbing Road roundabout intersection. The proposed 24-unit condominium complex density only exacerbates this existing traffic engineering dilemma.

Our home is adjacent to the Amelia Baptist Church. During a conversation in our living room with Neil Helton, Ph.D., Pastor and Elder of Amelia Baptist Church, I told him the reasons we purchased the land and built near the church. It was the “peace and tranquility.” He assured me that the church desires to “be a good neighbor.”

Now, they want to build a 24-unit condominium complex virtually next door. We were never notified of their plan. We were blindsided. This calls into question the motives, goodwill and integrity of the church leadership.

Additionally, there are tax status implications of a tax-exempt church engaging in for-profit real estate development activities. And, finally, there are anticipated negative impacts to the investment values of nearby single-family homes, in some cases the homeowner’s largest single investment.

I have discussed the Amelia Baptist Church’s property rezoning plan for development of a high-density condominium complex with the church’s neighbors. Our neighborhood all agree that it is intrusive, inconvenient and undesirable. Therefore, I urge the Nassau County Development Review Committee to reject this egregious and poorly conceived rezoning proposal.

Technically, it appears that the church would sell the 2.5 acres to the developer, believed to be Scott Road Partners (Artisan), if the rezone is approved — and then Artisan would develop the condominiums. –Editor

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Mark Tomes
Trusted Member
Mark Tomes(@mtomes)
9 months ago

I will say it again: the city and county commissioners should stop allowing rezoning. Planning and zoning decisions are often years in the making, and by granting rezoning measures, often to increase development, it’s a slap in the face to the people who worked for good planning. Also, there are reasons zones are designated as they are. This development initiated by Amelia Baptist Church is a good example. There’s no reason that area should have high density development. More single-family residences are bad enough in that area, much less allowing even more people, cars, traffic, destruction of wildlife corridor’s, etc.

Noble Member
9 months ago

This is yet another example of a request to rezone so that density can be increased. There is NO good reason to do this. The county should stand firm against it!

Noble Member
9 months ago

Hey Commissioners: If you rezone, prepare to resign or get recalled!

Cheryl Witt
Cheryl Witt(@cheryl-witt)
9 months ago

Please also consider the tree loss. With every mega development we allow, we are losing our precious tree canopy. High density plans are usually raze and scrape to bare earth, pour concrete then plant a paltry-few ornamental trees to landscape. They have to provide for parking, right? 24 condos, 48 cars, and all traveling down Shadow Wood lane and Gerbing road. Awful idea. Keep it single family development. That’s what was determined to be best use.

Full disclosure, I’m on the board of Amelia Tree Conservancy, dedicated to preserving our maritime forest canopy and the unique environment it supports.

9 months ago

Summarizing this article. The headline insinuates they are not a good neighbor for not speaking to their neighbors over something they are not going to do which is build a dense property development. It slanders the Amelia Baptist pastor by stating the church wants to become a “property developer” when in reality they are simply selling property. The article needs to be taken down and rewritten, after effectively negating all the points in the article by a note by the “editor” placed at the end.