Progress on a host of fronts



Resilience was the theme for Tuesday’s presentation on forward momentum in the redevelopment of the neighborhood of North Port St. Joe.

Resilience in the sense of undertaking the task and sticking with it, as well as resilience in the broader sense of demonstrating the work being accomplished has legitimate staying power.

“Resilience is absolutely critical,” said John Hendry, a consultant working with the North Port St. Joe Project Action Committee (NPSJ-PAC) on land-use issues.

“For this to be carried forward for the years you have to carry this forward, you have to be excited, you have to be committed.”

The presentation to the Port St. Joe Redevelopment Agency board was aimed at providing an update on work concerning land-use elements for development along Martin Luther King, Blvd.

But it also served to update the board, as well as a healthy contigent from the community that showed up, of the work accomplished, that these baby steps toward a jumping off point for redevelopment are viable.

In particular, the presentation was aimed at the community and the city at large.

“The common goal here is to keep this moving,” Hendry said.

Hendry’s presentation was largely technical and an illustration of the possibilities for development through land-use changes.

All while ensuring that those who have made the neighborhood their home for decades, have the incentives to stay in place and engage in that development.

“We are trying to make this happen but we know we need the city’s support,” said Chester Davis, president of the NPSJ-PAC. “This will benefit not only North Port St. Joe but it will also benefit all of Port St. Joe.”

The path of the land-use work leads to amendments to the city’s comprehensive plan and land use regulations to open up the area, which carries constrictive zoning, for development.

The broad strokes mission is to re-establish a commercial and community center in North Port St. Joe; provide uses which will complement and support the development of the Port of Port St. Joe; eliminate blight the cripples property values in the area; and increase the tax base.

Hendry said his calculations showed that each year the county loses $77,000, conservatively, in potential taxes due to the blighted nature of the area.

Current zoning, Hendry said, constrains development and carries little incentive to relieve blight.

The document when finished will be part of a package to be submitted to the Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc. board as part of application for $5 million in funding to improve and update infrastructure in North Port St. Joe, a critical step forward, Hendry said.

“We have to show we are serious about this,” Hendry said.

The work, taking place on several fronts, all stems from the 2016 update of the Conceptual Master Plan for North Port St. Joe, which came out of community meetings hosted by the NPSJ-PAC.

That plan placed a focus on restoring and preserving the historic character of the neighborhood while restoring a commercial heart and providing living areas for people, Hendry said.

MLK Blvd. was identified as the key.

“It is encouraging to me to see citizens gathered here wanting to improve their neighborhood,” said Commissioner Rex Buzzett, chairman of the PSJRA board.

Commissioner David Ashbrook echoed the sentiment, “It’s exciting. I am seeing real progress.”