Thousands of pine trees in an area near Sanderson in western Baker County, located near railroad tracks and two major highways, could be replaced one day by a manufacturing plant, warehouse, mining operation or some other business employing hundreds of people.
At least, that’s what is intended in a proposal to amend the county’s long-range comprehensive plan to change the future land use designation on 300 acres from agriculture to industrial.
The Baker County Land Planning Agency, an appointed panel that reviews land use and zoning applications, endorsed the proposed change during a meeting on the evening of February 14 and sent it on to the county commission for consideration.
Ed Preston, the county’s planning and zoning director, told the board that the proposal, known as a “large scale future land use amendment,” had met the unanimous approval of the development review committee comprised of various county department heads, and his staff also recommended approval.
No specific development plans have been drawn up, nor are any known developers interested in the site at the moment, Mr. Preston said. Or, if there are, he said, “they haven’t told me about it.”
The purpose, he said, “is to move the site one step closer to industrial development status.” The county wants to be prepared to move forward quickly to expedite the process for any potential developers that may surface in the future.
“There is no end user identified,” Mr. Preston told the LPA panel. “This (amendment) would foster economic development and industrial growth in the county.”
Darryl Register, executive director of the Baker County Economic Development Commission, said the first question out of a developer’s mouth when they express interest in Baker County for an industrial development is whether a site already approved for industrial use is immediately available.
Competition is tough among Northeast Florida counties when it comes to bringing in new jobs-producing developments, Mr. Register said, and anything Baker County can do to improve the odds could prove beneficial down the road.
Changing the land use on the 300-acre site near Sanderson now, he said, will help attract prospective developers by eliminating the time-consuming process of getting the land use changed to meet their needs.
The site, which lies 500 feet south of US 90 and just a few miles west of the US 90/Interstate 10 interchange, is comprised of three separate parcels owned by two different entities. The Baker County Economic Development Commission owns 140 acres and the remaining 160 adjacent acres are owned by Plum Creek Land Co., one of the nation’s largest owners of timberland.
The specific zoning will remain unchanged until an applicant submits a site development plan, which will be reviewed and approved by the development review committee, the land planning agency and the county commission. Current zoning allows no more than one residence per 10 acres.
An industrial land use category, Mr. Preston explained, is intended for activities predominantly associated with manufacturing, assembly, processing or storage of products, distribution and mining industries. Intensities of use could include heavy industry, light industry and industrial park operations.
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