Residents Aghast at Amelia Baptists’ PUD Proposal

By Mike Lednovich


Proposed planned unit development.

Amelia Baptist Church held a neighborhood meeting Monday and revealed its plans to construct two condominium buildings with 24 total units along the Amelia River on an oak-lined street of residential homes off Buccaneer Trail.

The 3.64 acres the church owns are zoned residential, and allowing the condos would require approvals from Nassau County.

The church displayed plans for two 4-story buildings, around a pool with 24 total units. The meeting of Shadow Woods Lane homeowners was held at the American Beach Community Center.

The church said it plans on filing a Planned Unit Development (PUD) application with the county in the next 30 days. A Planned Unit Development (PUD) is a zoning district that allows for a variety of residential, commercial, and open space uses within a single development. The application will include a schematic of the proposed project.

One person in attendance said the crowd “gasped” when the plan drawings were shown by the church.

“The assembled neighbors were aghast at what they saw. It looked like a Las Vegas casino. Nothing could be more out of character from their established, tranquil, single-family homes and neighborhood and the quality of life of those living there,” wrote Sam Kennard, a nearby neighbor in a letter to homeowners. “The egregious and unconscionable development plan was strongly objected to by all of the concerned neighbors in attendance, because it would permanently, negatively change the shape and character of their neighborhood, property values and lives.”

Because the project is a PUD and requires a public benefit, a small park with three parkings spaces was included.

The builder is Wood Development Company of Jacksonville, which developed Dunes of Amelia on Amelia Island.

“It was obvious from the presentation that the leadership of Amelia Baptist Church did not understand the Nassau Codes that they have the desire to circumvent with their PUD,” said nearby resident Tom Oliver. “Additionally, this was the only development option they pursued even though there were other approaches with less impact on their neighbors.”

The project also includes expanding the church complex, which is just west of the roundabout on Buccaneer Trail near Harris Teeter grocery store.

“I’m sure the six houses on Shadow Woods Lane will be thrilled with people driving past their houses to use this new public area,” wrote Laura Keller, a resident near what would be the proposed public park next to the condos.

According to Keller’s account of the meeting, it was reported that a traffic study revealed that the project would generat an additional 59,130 vehicle trips on Shadow Woods Lane per year. There are only six homes on Shadow Woods Lane.The county would install sidewalks and pave the gravel street.

According to the Nassau County Property Appraiser website, the land at 1356 Shadow Woods Lane was purchased by Amelia Baptist Church on Jan. 3, 2023 for $4.4 million from the estate of Maria Ann Sellers.

In their original application to the county, Amelia Baptist Church said, “The redevelopment of the church offers the opportunity for the church to continue to give back and serve the County residents as well as create a mixed-use project. To that end additional land was acquired in 2022. The land was owned by two ABC founding members, Larry and Maria Sellers, who helped to establish Amelia Baptist Church several decades ago. After the death of both parents, the four sons expressed their parents’ wish to offer our church the first right to purchase the land and family home.

“ABC entered into negotiations to sell a portion of its property to a third party. This sale would allow redevelopment of the church facilities and provide a compatible residential waterfront community.”

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Mark Tomes
Trusted Member
Mark Tomes(@mtomes)
1 month ago

Wow, $4.4 million for a little over 3 1/2 acres doesn’t exactly sound like the owners were doing the church that big a deal. Now the church has to recoup that massive expense. A Christian perspective would have them look at creating a truly affordable housing project, but it doesn’t sound like they’ll be able to do that, either, much less be a good neighbor. In the end, they’ll be able to expand their own facilities, while earning the disgrace of everyone else on the island. Money, money, money.

Noble Member
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Tomes

Completely agree!!

Jane Philips Collins
Active Member
Jane Philips Collins(@jane-philips-collins)
1 month ago

I was also at the meeting and am horrified by the proposal. The meeting was said to be held to “dispel rumors” but the truth turned out to be much worse than any rumors I have heard. Three very large buildings, built sequentially, ending in a mega church with 500 seats is the plan. The construction may take years, with related construction headaches for our neighborhood. Traffic on Buccaneer Trail is already at maximum, seems to me. I am sitting on my porch now and see the steady stream of vehicles, and large trucks on this declared Canopy Road. Even now, I go east on Philips Manor to go either direction, to town or to Harris Teeter, though I live next to Buccaneer Trail. The new bike lane across the Parkway at the head of Buccaneer is going to kill someone and I don’t want to be there to see it. This is a most ill-conceived plan. A church shouldn’t be in the real estate business. If they want to build a huge sanctuary, they should do a capital campaign, as other churches do, and should comply with the established zoning in the area they chose to locate their facility. 

Noble Member
1 month ago

You’re right…I have a dear friend who is a pastor and their church has ZERO DEBT! If I’m not mistaken, that’s what it says in the Bible anyway. That’s the way they live their life and that’s the way they lead their church. These “mega churches” don’t seem to truly follow the Bible. They seem to follow The Joneses. 🙁

Paula M
Noble Member
Paula M(@paula-m)
1 month ago

Bad idea.

Noble Member
1 month ago

Luke 14:28
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?”

The paid church leadership and elders must have skipped over this verse when they shelled out all the money for the land and then had to sell a chunk off to pay for it. It is either a deceitful plan or a naive one – neither option bodes well for this little corner of Nassau County.

Adding these condos would QUINTUPLE the density of residences and traffic over today’s levels and drive untenable increase in traffic on an already clogged and narrow road – which would lead to widening, etc, taking out more trees, and forever changing this canopy road.

How will they compensate the owners of the homes there now for the destruction of value and quiet enjoyment? This is not a simple addition that only has an impact on people at the periphery – it runs down the middle of an existing neighborhood. And from what I can see in the photo above, there is no path to go through the paved area around the church that could lead to Gerbing Road and out through the traffic circle.

We can only pray that the county Planning and Zoning group and the County Commissioners listen to the people that live there NOW and turn a deaf ear to the greed and selfishness of the proponents of this offensive plan.


Noble Member
1 month ago
Reply to  Cmoss56

AMEN!!! I thought that’s what the Bible said. That’s what’s wrong with our country today. EVERYONE lives on CREDIT! No one believes in saving for anything anymore. It’s bad. Of course, our economy makes it difficult to do. 🙁

Noble Member
1 month ago

I have already written both the planning and zoning board as well as the county commissioners and told them to DECLINE this project. They DO NOT HAVE TO allow it. The church can develop it at RS-1. Period. I wholeheartedly agree-they COULD have done the Christian thing and used this property to create AFFORDABLE housing for this area. How about the “tiny homes” that have recently been approved by the county? They COULD have done something POSITIVE like that…instead, GREED continues. NO PUD. Build some megastructures and recoup your funds that way. Must be some Joel O’Steen types running that church. It’s sad. 🙁

17 days ago

Captain Clyde Morris would not have been in favor of this. He helped start this church.